An Unexpected Year... or How I Came to Love the Collage Essay
I started the year reading Glennon Doyle's Untamed. There is nothing unexpected in form or structure of her book. It unfolds as most books of a similar ilk unfold.
So, I'm more than willing to admit that before this year, I had never heard of a collage essay or a braided essay, much less experienced one.
While I love looping non-linear narratives, every memoir I'd read had a fairly linear nature to it. Then I picked up The Chronology of Water by Lidia Luknavitch (thank you Christina for recommending it) and experienced something radically different.
To quote Solnit:
"Timejumps, fragments, backward glances, and parallel subjects are familiar in novels, but somehow some readers seem to find them unrecognizable in a work of nonfiction."
Not long after finishing The Chronology of Water, my friend Marion told me about the braided essay she was writing for uni and gave me a chance to read it when it was finished. (It's brilliant and hopefully one day it will be published and you all will also get a chance to read it too!)
No coincidences... not long after, in early July Rus's original draft of Prisms landed in my inbox and it was an extensions of what I had experienced with Marion and Luknavitch's writing. And I knew exactly how to push Rus's work to the limits of what it could be.
As such it doesn't look anything like a standard memoir. Or a book of essays.
It is it's own beautiful and profound structure. Unique in every way.*
But what of the collage essay? What the hell are we even referring to?
"The Collage Essay has been called many things in its century-long existence. It has sometimes been referred to as a discontinuous, or patchwork essay; some authors even go so far as to call the collage essay a hybrid form of the lyric essay, which is when two or more stories are braided together for one greater theme or main point.
David Shields, in his book, Reality Hunger, defines the collage essay as “the art of reassembling fragments of preexisting images in such a way as to form a new image.”
Prisms leans heavily on this definition, but I have added my own touch to this work. While most of the essay is completely true, I have taken the liberty to embellish, just a touch, here and there, to extend a greater truth to the overall meaning of this work.
*I'm also editing another memoir for a friend which is informed and
shaped by Rus's book, but pushes the form out even further. It has been such an unexpected year in this way and I'm blessed to work with authors who are willing to take huge risks with their work.