The Guardians: An Elegy


By Sarah Manguso

Parul Sehgal, Plain Dealer, February 2012

On July 23, 2008, a young man leaptto his death in front of a Metro-North train in New York City. He was identified later as Harris Wulfson, a beloved Brooklyn, N.Y., musician whohad suffered from intermittent psychotic episodes.

He is eulogized in a new book, “The Guardians,” by Sarah Manguso, author of “Two Kinds of Decay.” Theirs was a platonic friendship, a twinship tinged by Eros.

Manguso had just returned to New York after a year abroad when she heard that Harris had escaped from a psychiatric institution and committed suicide. Her book is as much a memoir of mourning, of piecing together the puzzle of Harris’ final hours, as it is a struggle to find a vessel to contain her pain, the search for the right kind of book to write.

“If I were a journalist I’d have spoken to everyone and written everything down right away,” she writes. But she’s afraid, she says, afraid to talk to his parents, his last lover or the man that drove the train. She retreats, skipping the memorial, refusing the family’s invitation to visit Harris’ apartment to choose something of his to keep.

“I wasn’t going to continue without Harris,” she writes. “Everyone else could mourn, obedient, but I would not participate.”

She surrenders to her grief. “I don’t try to hide it. I let it get all over everything.”

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