Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life, resembles Chee’s in its resistance to prescriptive instruction and the authoritative pedagogical impulse in favor of sketching edges and contours of what it means both to write and to be ... This is a woozy writing crafted in cycles and slippages, in repetition with minor variances. It is, well, life, and the body, repeating, repeating, repeating, like breath and blood, at once inexorably the same and ineffably different. As readers of this writing, then, we do not learn a craft so much as gather and sense, sift and glean, becoming aware through accretion, collection, absorption, rereading. We are not told how to write in clear terms; instead, we are shown what writing actually feels like and what words can be made to do.
Boully is an author who often takes bold formal steps: Her first book, The Body: An Essay is made up entirely of footnotes to an absent text. In her preface to this collection, Boully explains that the essays contained within span her career to date — that they, in her words, 'began to appear when I began to write truly as a writer.' ... What emerges from the cumulative experience of reading them, then, is a glimpse inside a singular authorial voice, and the way that life experiences and a literary aesthetic are intertwined. The overall effect is hypnotic. Throughout Betwixt and Between, she uses unexpected juxtapositions to achieve a powerful effect. Several of the essays within feature self-consciously sprawling titles: The Art of Fiction and How to Write on Grand Themes are two examples. Both essays eschew rote advice on craft and instead delve into the idiosyncrasies of Boully’s own life experiences — and, in doing so, neatly leap over the oft debated argument over the personal vs. the universal ... For all that Boully can write in a heady register, she also incorporates familiar questions in these essays: Family, identity and desire all occupy plenty of space within the text ... Betwixt-and-Between is living proof of that: It’s not only a powerful demonstration of writing as life, but of the ways that lived experiences can illuminate and transform writing.
Jenny Boully’s fifth book, Betwixt and Between: Essays On the Writing Life, does not neatly assimilate into the tradition of writers writing about writing. Historically, these books blend memoir and how-to into quick, comprehensive, and illustrious reads ... Betwixt-and-Between subverts this style by discussing her existence as a writer, rather than the concrete task of writing itself. She lays no claim as to who the writer is; in fact, one of the themes that acts as an adhesive for this otherwise erratic collection is her outright cry against classification: 'I am sometimes called a poet, sometimes an essayist, sometimes a lyric essayist, sometimes a prose poet…I find these categorizations odd: I have never felt like anything other than whole.' In this effort, she does not wish to nail down a dictated method—she looks to show what she as a writer attempts: 'Can you give to someone else what has been? That’s the task of the poet.' ... A prospective reader should consider their intentions when they approach this book ... Notwithstanding, Boully’s belief on writing as creation does not differ from what has previously been written: 'How writing then differs from violent weather: in storms you have not where once you had; in writing you have where once you had not.' Yet, it is this inventive dissection of the subject that makes Betwixt-and-Between a necessary inclusion to the writers-on-writing canon.