The Shell Game

the shell game: writers play with borrowed forms       
The Shell Game: Writers Play with Borrowed Forms is an anthology of intriguing essays that take their forms from ordinary, everyday sources: a recipe, a crossword puzzle, a Craig’s List ad... Edited and with an introduction by Kim Adrian, this selection of beautifully written, thought-provoking work has already become a classic in the increasingly popular genre affectionally known as "hermit crab essays."

The Shell Game lives proudly in The Millions' "Hall of Fame."
"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." —New Pages

"The essays in this collection bring with them a sense of hope about literature and its capacity for evolution and change . . . a volume that is as much an inspiration for other writers as it is a definitive collection of a constantly evolving genre." —The Millions

"If good creative writing sparks the instinct to write, The Shell Game provides ample embers to inspire a wide range of writers. . . Anyone from the expert essayist, lay reader, or a teacher looking for an evocative anthology will find something of value in these pages." —Columbia Journal

"Kim Adrian has curated a selection of thirty essays that adopt different forms in order to present new ideas, compose startling images, and provide a deeper understanding of the relationship between form and content...The Shell Game may serve to expand what readers think of when they think of the essay." —Punctuate Magazine

"If you were to recommend this book to others, you’d likely tell them to savor it, make it last: tell them that they should not 'binge-read' it, but rather treat themselves with a new form each day until they’ve read the last one." —Hippocampus Magazine

"This collection can be returned to again and again, as the reading mind grows . . . The Shell Game makes a unique and significant contribution." —Split Rock Review

“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." —Patrick Madden, author of Sublime Physick and Quotidiana

"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, author of Wild Life

Read an excerpt
From the Introduction: "A Natural History of the North American Hermit Crab Essay"

    DOMAIN: Anima
        KINDOM: Homo Sentio
            PHYLUM: Ars
                CLASS: Litterae
                    ORDER: Exagium
                        FAMILY: Lyrica
                            GENUS: Paguridae

Hermit Crab Essay

Borrowed Form; Appropriated Form; Received Form; Cross-Genre; Hybrid; False Document; Readymade; Curio.

Theoretically infinite, realistically somewhere in the thousands. Maybe tens of. Some of the more conspicuous include: grocery lists; how-to instructions; job applications; syllabi and other academic outlines; recipes; obituaries; liner notes; contributors’ notes; chronologies of all orders; abecedarians of all types; hierarchies of every description; want ads; game instructions; mind maps; organizational flow charts; questionnaires; playing cards; tarot cards; horoscopes; tables/charts/spreadsheets; medical advice and warnings; blog entries; twitter feeds; Facebook posts; email exchanges; police blotters; newsletters; hotel registers; log books; care and use instructions; time cards; catalogue copy; to-do lists; play-by-play commentaries; theatrical programs; maps and their legends; architectural renderings; computer codes; other codes; fill-In-the-blank forms; tests/exams/evaluations; directions (as for travel); directions (as for assembly); paint color fans; Rolodexes; little black books; white pages; yellow pages; illustrated guides; letters of resignation; wedding vows; divorce papers; manifestos; diaries; notes to self; menus; grant applications; award ceremonies; morphologies; ingredient lists; nutritional values; pricing options; photo captions; indices; tables of content; etymological histories; theoretical abstracts; knitting patterns; sewing patterns; other patterns; packing lists; travel itineraries; and so on; and so forth.
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Released: April 1, 2018
Paperback: 276 pp.
Purchase options include: Indiebound | University of Nebraska Press | Amazon