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Ashley Kalagian Blunt on Fiona Wright

At the Sydney Review of Books, Ashley Kalagian Blunt reviews Fiona Wright’s new essay collection, The World Was Whole, with an eye towards Wright’s manipulation of the conventional essay form:

The personal essay form allows a writer to focus on ideas and themes, rather than follow the narrative arc that might be expected of a conventional memoir. In several essays in The World Was Whole, Wright resists narrative altogether. She introduces this approach in ‘The Everyday Injuries’, when she speaks to a friend who is going through a breakup. He has the big things under control, he tells her; it’s the little things that he can’t handle, like filling in a form that asks for an emergency contact. This, Wright says, is the human condition. …

‘The Everyday Injuries’ is the first of five essays composed of curated anecdotes, encounters and small moments, Wright’s everyday occurrences and injuries, and, sometimes, the things that bring her joy. This establishes the book’s dynamic. In her more traditionally structured essays, Wright presents her ideas and themes, pairs her experiences with research. The fragmentary essays allow Wright to dilate on her themes, to capture her lived experience on the page the way it is and was lived: joys muddled up with grief, small comforts, panic attacks, and the delights and torments of the season, of friendships, of food.