Section: Arts

Award-winning authors to read from unconventional works

Award-winning authors to read from unconventional works

Ismet Prcic escaped war-torn Bosnia as a teenager, which he relates in his work 'Shards.'

by Paige Shermis

Ismet Prcic is a Bosnian expatriate whose acclaimed novel Shards rocked the fictional memoir genre. Benjamin Busch, a former Marine and actor on the show The Wire, took 43 years to write his memoir Dust to Dust. United by their unconventional storytelling means and Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award-winning prose, Prcic and Busch will give readings of their works on today at 5:15 p.m. in the Cheever Room in Finn House.

Prcic (pronounced Pur-sick), who now lives in Portland, Ore., won in the fiction category for Shards, which was published in 2011.

“[Shards] is a complicated book,” he said. “It’s a story that starts off as a memoir. It’s about a Bosnian guy who grows up during the wartime. He is 15 when the war starts, and he is supposed to go to war. He figures a way to get out … and uses a theatre troupe to escape.”

Prcic bends the line between reality and fiction by giving his protagonist his own name.

“Also, that’s how I escaped the war in real life. Most of the time when people start reading it, and when they notice when the character has the same name as the author, they assume it’s a memoir,” Prcic said.

Ultimately, in Shards, Prcic’s protagonist starts writing his own memoir.

“His therapist tells him to write everything down. He starts writing his memoir, and he starts writing fiction, and he doesn’t know the difference between his memoir and fiction. He crates a character that might be fictional, might be real. It’s a parallel story of a person who escapes, and a person who stays in the war and fights it. By the end, you have no clue which character is real,” he said.

Busch, of Reed City, Mich., won the award for creative nonfiction for Dust to Dust: A Memoir. Busch is also known for his portrayal of narcotics officer Tony Colicchio on The Wire and served in Iraq as a Marine, where he earned a Purple Heart in 2005.

Dust to Dust took me 43 years to write,” he said. “It is my experiential manifesto on our passage through time and landscape, the life of memory and presence of the terrestrial elements in our collective story.  I wrote it not as a celebration of myself, but to serve as a way for the reader to see their own journey through my eyes.  It is a very visual book delivered by a single messenger hoping for transference.  The book is about the reader and lays down a defiance of mortality despite the inevitability of death.”

Both writers are working on their second books. Prcic’s next work, like his first, involves the concept of reality versus fiction.

“I kind of think all my books are about the nature of what is real and what is not. In [Shards] you think it’s a memoir as a device for people to feel safe, when the fiction part comes in. If I just told the story, people would go, ‘Oh, this guy’s fake, and I don’t have to worry about him,’” Prcic said. “The second book is doing a similar thing — it tells the story about a woman who is a soldier who lost her children. She comes back from the front line and her mother, who was taking care of the children, suffered some sort of mental breakdown. [The protagonist] is a woman who will never find out what really happened — that’s how the real world works. It’s this woman’s struggle between real life and this story that she invents.”

Busch’s next work is controversial, he said.

“I am proposing a novel I think New York might be too frightened to buy, [and] finishing a collection of poetry that has eluded perfection for five years, and may best wait to be printed posthumously,” he said.

 

 

 

 

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