Escape Velocity: Sarah Manguso in Conversation with Tess McNulty (EH)


What’s the truth and what’s a lie? What’s a memoir, what’s a novel, and what if both are just a series of “prose blocks”? This conversation between Sarah Manguso and Tess McNulty takes up questions of writing and veracity, trauma and memory. Sarah Manguso is the author of nine books, including three memoirs. Her first novel, Very Cold People (Hogarth, 2023), was named a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and her second novel, Liars, is forthcoming. Tess and Sarah discuss how the threshold between truth and fiction is often used to minimize writing by women and how characters can achieve escape velocity against the pull of violence and abuse. We learn that Sarah doesn’t imagine an audience when she writes—instead, writing articulates something felt in the body, something that remains “uncomfortable until it is so articulated.” From the Yankee thrift of book design and the writing of front matter, acknowledgements, and Sarah’s brilliant titles, we move to 70s-era typography and wordplay with the answer to Season 7’s signature question.


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