Who Is Mary Sue?
Sophie Collins’s fearless and brilliant debut: a series of verse and prose collages, exploring themes of identity, shame, gender, trauma, composition and culture.
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WINNER OF THE MICHAEL MURPHY MEMORIAL PRIZE
POETRY BOOK SOCIETY CHOICE
In the language of fan fiction, a ‘Mary Sue’ is an idealised and implausibly flawless character: a female archetype that can infuriate audiences for its perceived narcissism.
Such is the setting for this brilliant and important debut by Sophie Collins. In a series of verse and prose collages, Who Is Mary Sue? exposes the presumptive politics behind writing and readership: the idea that men invent while women reflect; that a man writes of the world outside while a woman will turn to the interior.
Part poetry and part reportage, at once playful and sincere, these fictive–factive miniatures deploy original writing and extant quotation in a mode of pure invention. In so doing, they lift up and lay down a revealing sequence of masks and mirrors that disturb the reflection of authority.
A work of captivation and correction, this is a book that will resonate with anyone concerned with identity, shame, gender, trauma, composition and culture: everyone, in other words, who wishes to live openly and think fearlessly in the modern world.
Who Is Mary Sue? is a work for our times and a question for our age: it is a handbook for all those willing to reimagine prescriptive notions of identity and selfhood.
‘An urgent interrogation of the cultural conditions that continue to suppress women’s voices … a much-needed work of stunning feminist complaint.’
Who Is Mary Sue? is a startlingly original text that requests a different mode of reading, one that encourages avoiding labels and easy conclusions. Readers will emerge more interrogative, more invested in the stakes of sexist, limited criticism, after finishing this corrective and captivating debut.
The most original debut of 2018 was Sophie Collins’s Who Is Mary Sue?, a unique work of feminist imagining that moves between verse and prose. At its heart is The Engine, a dream-like narrative of shame and disgust, told with disturbing coolness: “I woke with cold lips and nose, and the desire to bite down on raw clay.”
Sophie Collins’s Who Is Mary Sue? is alert to how female authors and their protagonists are often conflated in fiction. Enlisting quotations from Rachel Cusk, Jamaica Kincaid, Sharon Olds and others, Collins builds a defence of women’s imagination. She mixes lyric and prose forms to meditate on the nature of shame, desire and the strangeness of embodiment.
The most original debut of 2018 was Sophie Collins’s Who Is Mary Sue?, a unique work of feminist imagining that moves between verse and prose. At its heart is The Engine, a dream-like narrative of shame and disgust, told with disturbing coolness: 'I woke with cold lips and nose, and the desire to bite down on raw clay.'
‘I was lucky enough to hear Sophie Collins read from her poetry collection, Who Is Mary Sue? and it remained with me.’
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