Who Is Mary Sue?
Mr B's review
Mr B’s Christmas Catalogue Review 2018
A ‘Mary Sue’, in the world of fan-fiction, is a poorly disguised version of an author – idealised, one-faceted and (surprise!) unequivocally female. These poems and prose-snippets, on the other hand, are raw and sharp-eyed, and they draw our attention to the gendered expectations regarding writing by women which still abound. Playful and original in form, Sophie Collins’ collection is also welcoming and accessible – a complex, fun and painful delight for anyone looking for a fresh voice.
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.
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