Blueberries

Bluebs cover Text

Shortlisted, Non-Fiction, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, 2021

Sometimes I think it’s possible to live with anything. That we’re wired to survive-survive-survive, to grip onto the gnarliest thread until life is pried from our bones. Other times I think, it’s not possible to live at all. Not at all.

Blueberries could be described as a collection of essays, the closest term available for a book that resists classification: a blend of personal essay, polemic, prose poetry, true-crime journalism and confession that considers a fragmented life, reflecting on what it means to be a woman, a body, an artist. It is both a memoir and an interrogation of memoir. It is a new horizon in storytelling.

In crystalline prose, Savage explores the essential questions of the examined life: what is it to desire? What is it to accommodate oneself to the world? And at what cost?

 

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PRAISE FOR BLUEBERRIES

‘Ellena Savage is savagely smart and talented.’

Rachel Kushner

‘A breathtaking interrogation of the self in the world; the self within structures of power and oppression…Blueberries is exciting and distinctive.’

Books+Publishing (starred review)

Blueberries is quite simply one of the best essay collections of the last twenty years. Read it, and feel that hope for the future we all need right now.’

Culturefly

‘Her voice [is] reassuringly droll, critical and warmly intimate…[Savage] has a poetic way of reminding us that crucial learning comes only with age—that time is finite.’

Saturday Paper

‘Savage’s idealism and eloquence are a much-needed counterbalance to our by-now-threadbare belief that all the hard questions of how to order our world have been answered, that everything unsettling such certainty is a glitch, to be soldered onto the technocratic motherboard and run through the circuits of the polity. Blueberries is an adamant and unruly book. It is also the most exciting work of creative non-fiction to be published in this country since Maria Tumarkin took up the pen.’

Australian

‘A masterclass in experimental non-fiction…Savage is fiercely intelligent and manages to inject dry humour into even the most serious topics, creating a delicate balance between dire existentialism and life-affirming joy. By questioning the very nature of memoir itself, Savage breathes new life into the non-fiction form and considers what it means to be alive in today’s uncertain world.’

Kill Your Darlings

‘Savage navigates delicate and difficult terrain with wit, ruthless scrutiny and painfully sharp analysis…If Yellow City is any indication, Blueberries will be one of the most exciting debuts of the new year.’

Overland

‘Once I started reading Blueberries, I found it almost impossible to put down. It’s fascinating to watch Ellena Savage’s mind at work in this book—her essays unfurl, expand, and dance in unexpected and satisfying ways. This is a masterful, fearless book in which strength and vulnerability collide.’

Chelsea Hodson, author of Tonight I’m Someone Else

‘Ellena Savage is a rare kind of true intellectual, a voice that rises above the cacophony with remarkable insight. In Blueberries, she cuts fearless swathes through the ways that we write and think and live now and leaves us far better for it: the book is unsettling, life-affirming and essential.’

Jean Edelstein, author of This Isn’t Really About You

‘[Savage is] either a genius, or a witch, or my dream coupling of the two.’

Rita Bullwinkel, author of Belly Up

Blueberries feels like laying down on the train tracks and looking up at the sky—a reverie, shot through by a feeling of acceleration, of something vast coming at you. Ellena Savage’s essays are heartstopping epics of self-inquiry and world-inquiry.’

Maria Tumarkin

‘Ellena Savage, in Blueberries, confronts the past convulsively, compulsively. In dialogic language and form, the author, facing memory’s traumas and perplexities, and also its delights, is constantly aware that it’s all about the translation of experience from the private to the public realm. In extremis, which is where Savage shines especially, it’s as if she saying to the “repressed”: go ahead and return; make my day.‘

David Lazar, Professor of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago

‘Reading Ellena Savage’s Blueberries engaged me completely. Savage’s sparkling writing is bold, witty, insightful, fearless and funny. It emerges from an astute mind at odds with itself, with culture and society. Savage wrestles and plays with received ideas of all kinds, and with what has and hasn’t shaped her. Savage’s fierce essays and stories are true to a lived life, and fascinating and irresistible.’

Lynne Tillman

‘Wrestling with the intricacies of memory, identity, class and trauma, [Blueberries] sees Savage contemplate her past with unflinching clarity…Take it to your next book club.‘

Elle Australia

‘Ellena Savage has produced a collection that defies categorisation but is fervently experiential, candid and original.‘

Readings Monthly

‘For fans of Maria Tumarkin, Kathy Acker and Maggie Nelson, Blueberries marks Savage as an experimental writer and essayist to watch.‘

Adelaide Review

‘Delving into troubling territory, Savage brings a fierce intellect, sharp wit and a handful of uncomfortable truths. To read her is to be simultaneously thrilled and uneasy.’

Jessie Cole, author of Staying

‘Savage plays with form like a poet, and excavates the roots of her experience with an impressive generosity and fierce intelligence that mirror her mentor, Maria Tumarkin…Fans of Tumarkin and Jia Tolentino should hunt this down… and luxuriate in a recent past where whiplash-inducing international travel was an option.’

InDaily

Blueberries is a sometimes playful, sometimes fierce collection that is, in its own zigzagging way, a coming-of-age story. In every piece, Savage has a biting interrogation of the world and herself…Savage is an excellent critic and a droll one.’

Age/SMH

‘Defying categorisation, Blueberries is unlike much else in Australian writing at the moment, and heralds Savage as a major new voice in experimental nonfiction.’

Saturday Paper

‘Through the shifting subjectivities of Savage’s lyric ‘I’, Blueberries asks piercing questions about power, desire, and violence…Perhaps one of her finest achievements in Blueberries is that, through her version of anti-memoir, Ellena Savage turns the fraught subjectivity of the writerly “I” into a formidable tool for reckoning with the self and the world.’

Australian Book Review

‘An astonishingly impressive Australian debut for fans of Jia Tolentino and Rebecca Solnit.’

WellRead

‘Savage deftly shifts between stylistic devices, narrative voices and time, and the result is breathtaking.’

Guardian

‘Savage deftly shifts between stylistic devices, narrative voices and time, and the result is breathtaking…The collection, for all its differences in tone, content and structure, comes together beautifully.’

Guardian

Blueberries does not always offer answers to the questions raised in its essays. In this way, however, it manages to be an endlessly curious and intriguing collection of work…[it] is clever, candid, and thoroughly fresh. Just read it.’

ArtsHub

‘Savage’s range and intellect demand a slow reading as she canvasses an eclectic array of topics…There’s a restlessness about Savage—a curiosity and an intent to interrogate, particularly with matters regarding sex and class–as she reflects on the power dynamics of what it means to be a (white) woman and a writer.’

Big Issue

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.’

Westerly

‘Throughout her writing career, Ellena Savage has sought to use the pliable form of the essay to create something entirely new…in Blueberries, her debut collection, she continues this project with astonishing success.’

Audrey Daybook

‘Absolutely bloody brilliant.’

Literary Friction

‘It’s smart, aware and funny while tackling tough issues of sexual abuse, class, memory, privilege and the life of an artist. Each essay blends critical theory and personal reflection, while pushing the boundaries of the form enough to keep each page fresh and challenging.’

Sarah Mott, Writing NSW