Alyssa Quinn’s “Transcendence: A Schematic”—Meridian Editors’ Prize 2019 winner—explores her efforts to process the loss of her brother. Weaving together a pilgrimage to Walden Pond, her memories of her brother, and her own beliefs and doubts, Quinn probes the hollowed out spaces, searching for a truth she can hold in the absence of her brother.
The exploration of emptiness leads Quinn to consider the places others turn to for truth. She explores science, religion, and maps, searching for a space where she can find her brother. Even in form, Quinn demonstrates absence as she creates a schematic, seeking answers from figures that do not exist. As Quinn tries to present an answer to her questions about death, transcendence, and reality she can only state with absolute uncertainty, “Perhaps the center is just as elusive as the beyond; matter as problematic as spirit.” In death, Quinn’s brother has shattered Quinn’s understanding of reality.
While the essay pulses with the agony of living in an emptied reality, Quinn recognizes that even her writing has been reformed by the loss of her brother. Quinn must confront the fact that “Syntax cannot convey true absence—say ‘I miss him’ and there he is again—there is no language for loss, for such awful missing.” Her work plunges into the loss of her brother, and emerges with the knowledge that Quinn must create a space to hold her brother within her own words.
About the reviewer: Shaun Anderson is a creative writing student at Utah State University.