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.
Sophie Collins grew up in Bergen, North Holland, and now lives in Edinburgh. She is co-editor of tender, an online arts quarterly, and editor of Currently & Emotion (Test Centre, 2016), an anthology of contemporary poetry translations. small white monkeys, a text on self-expression, self-help and shame, was published by Book Works in 2017 as part of a commissioned residency at Glasgow Women's Library. Who Is Mary Sue? is her first poetry collection.