An Australian writer and academic explores the elitism of MFA programs and professional writing workshops, sexual assault, settler colonialism, poetry and the limits of memoir in an eclectic collection of essays that pushes generic boundaries.
As a collection, Blueberries is frequently peripatetic and content to wander a number of avenues (often within the same essay) ... A vexed relationship with temps perdu also haunts the collection, and the need to escape—or at least manage—its subtler cruelties is finely conveyed ... Savage evokes a world of ‘[f]antasy futures not lived, having never lived’ ... It is a vivid description of the accounting that comes with age, the dilettantism and vivid pretensions formulated during (and often defining of) youth limned in wry detail ... Blueberries is a remarkable collection. From the material of our frequently wanton and violent world, Savage has woven together a book that is at once tenacious and wondrously alive.
Composed in a variety of styles, the only similarities the fifteen essays share are the questions they pose: What does it mean to be a writer? And what does it mean to be? This intensely cerebral debut collection operates like a set of mismatched china. The essays are charming, quirky, and at odds with each other. But categorizing the collection as 'essays' feels inaccurate. The combination of memoir, reportage, poetry, and prose lacks a lateral narrative, and reads more like poetic musings than cohesive, fully-fleshed arguments. Some pages are written in a more academic style, while others are like the pages of a diary. Savage navigates as many forms as the places she travels, though no one style is superior to the other. Together, though, they carry equal importance in Blueberries. Savage has a proclivity for placing secondary details at the forefront of her stories ... Savage’s lens is, at times, overwhelmingly privileged. This isn’t necessarily a detriment. She is aware of her whiteness, but doesn’t make amends for it; she is, after all, an accessory to larger systemic issues ... Some statements could be read as politically incorrect, but at least they’re thought provoking ... Savage is skilled at imparting language to universal feelings that are difficult to articulate.
Memory is not marked on a calendar or in police reports but is instead a constantly re-played series of remembrances, or 're-remembrances.' That the self exists in narrative form lies at the centre of Blueberries, as Savage explores the sites of identity—trauma, gender, class, religion, the body—in clear, rhythmic prose ... Blueberries is a book of reflections, in the sense that Savage appears to us reflected in the events and objects she describes. It is not a memoir. She is writing about the self, or selves, and how they are contained, whether in space or time or the trappings of culture.