The word collage has been borrowed from the visual arts to describe a kind of essay that juxtaposes fragments. But typically the word functions as an adjective: collage essay, or perhaps collage story or poem, though I haven’t encountered those. In the visual arts, though, collage is a noun. A collage. Not a collage painting. It is the thing itself, not a variety of another thing. I like that better.
Collage most literally means (in French) “gluing.” To describe an art form by the action of binding it, rather than by its components, is quite lovely. The creator of a collage is a person who collects scraps and glues them together.
The scraps might exist in the world already, just waiting to be assembled. Maybe that’s why essayists borrowed the word first—they paste together real people and real experiences. But there are plenty of scraps that fiction writers can collect: words, symbols, points of view.
In “New Money,” I glue together two archetypes that interest me. Then I end with a list. Lists in stories are little mini-collages; the items can serve as boundary markers. I wasn’t trying to be meta by using the word collage in the story; originally I had the word crochet, but that seemed too similar to personal training sessions, and too widow-ish already.
So those are some examples of scraps. I’m unsure what the glue is when it comes to fiction-as-collage. Imagination? Audacity? Love?
Amy McDaniel helps run the Solar Anus reading series in Atlanta, where she was born and raised. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Saveur, Alimentum, and The Agriculture Reader.
I’m already too old to be a young divorcée, gesturing thinly toward the bow of a pleasure boat, eating tiny shellfish out of unripe avocadoes, well-chilled.
I will freely take my husband’s name if I know we’ll be divorced within two or three years, and the rest of my life whether I remarry or not I’ll still be Mrs. Kehoe, or Mrs. Papadoulas. “It’s my name now,” I will insist, with a different intonation depending on who’s asking.
A young widow can be thirty or more.
A young widow can try collage, or sessions with an expensive personal trainer, or orgies or whatever gets her through.
by Amy McDaniel