The Shell Game: Writers Play with Borrowed Forms
Within the recent explosion of creative nonfiction, a new type of form is quietly emerging, what Brenda Miller calls “hermit crab essays.” The Shell Game is an anthology of these intriguing essays that borrow their structures from ordinary, everyday sources: a recipe, a crossword puzzle, a Craig’s List ad. Like their zoological namesake, these essays do not simply wear their borrowed “shells” but inhabit them so perfectly that the borrowed structures are wholly integral rather than contrived, both shaping the work and illuminating and exemplifying its subject.
The Shell Game contains a carefully chosen selection of beautifully written, thought-provoking hybrid essays tackling a broad range of subjects, including the secrets of the human genome, the intractable pain of growing up black in America, and the gorgeous glow residing at the edges of the autism spectrum. Surprising, delightful, and lyric, these essays are destined to become classics of this new and increasingly popular hybrid form.
Praise for The Shell Game: Writers Play with Borrowed Forms
"The Shell Game may serve to expand what readers may think of when they think of the essay. Among the grocery lists and Post-It notes, comic sketches and sermons, and the other ephemera of our everyday lives, essayistic elements exist—searching for their shells."—Sadaf Ferdowsi, Punctuate
"Of course you’ll want to let essay fans know they’ll enjoy this book. But also be sure to let people know that, if they’re also a writer or if they teach writing, this collection can serve as a model. You've always been somewhat of a rebel, so you'll want writers, especially those who stick to more rigid forms, to read this book to encourage them to have fun with their work. To take risks and chances."—Hippocampus Magazine
"The essays in this collection bring with them a sense of hope about literature and its capacity for evolution and change. . . . Ultimately, maybe it’s this promise of transformation and adaptation that makes hermit crab essays so appealing. They encourage us to move forward, and they show us how many different paths we might take."—Vivian Wagner, Millions
"If you are looking for a book that fits into the genre of "Creative Nonfiction," especially as an introduction, your best bet is to pick up The Shell Game immediately. . . . This book is the science fiction of creative nonfiction, or better yet, the Ulysses of the modern essay. It's a shell for itself, in that, without claiming these essays as "essays," one wouldn’t know what to call them, what to do with them. The Shell Game is far from the five paragraphs that grammar schools teach, and it makes readers feel as if they are learning what an essay is (or could be) all over again."—Cody Lee, New Pages
"If good creative writing sparks the instinct to write, The Shell Game provides ample embers to inspire a wide range of writers. . . . If any writer stumbles into The Shell Game, even for a few essays, they are bound to come away with some fresh ideas and new perspectives, a renewed hankering to examine the quotidian and evaluate the details and textures around them to render them in new, yet recognizable ways."—Rachel Kathryn Rueckert, Columbia Journal
"Hermit crab essays, without proper care, are at risk of devolving into cute pets . . . but The Shell Game makes a unique and significant contribution to helping avoid this fate."—Rebecca Fish Ewan, Split Rock Review
“Daring, innovative, and mind-bending, this anthology showcases the best of what is arguably the most exciting new thing on the literary landscape today: the borrowed form essay.”—Kathy Fish, coauthor of Rift and author of Wild Life
“Virginia Woolf asked of the essay ‘simply that it should give pleasure.’ The Shell Game fulfills this request, even exceeds it, bringing startling diversity of subject, voice, and form. Each essay is a new surprise, a prettier shell than ordinary, demonstrating astonishing originality in mimicry and providing, for this reader at least, pure joy.”—Patrick Madden, author of Sublime Physick and Quotidiana