Collins, David (Joseph) 1962-
COLLINS, David (Joseph) 1962-
PERSONAL: Born November 5, 1962, in Detroit, MI, United States; son of James (an automotive executive) and Eileen Foley Collins; married Louise Mooney, April 30, 1994 (deceased November 28, 1997); children: Robin Ryther (daughter). Education: University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), B.A. (English), 1985. Religion: Catholic.
CAREER: Writer and editor. Gale Research Co. (now The Gale Group), Farmington Hills, MI, editor, 1986—. Military service: U.S. Marine Corps, 1983; attended Officer Candidate School (honorable discharge).
My Louise: A Memoir, Ontario Review Press (Princeton, NJ), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: David Collins has been called one of a new breed of writers who aren't afraid to display emotion. This is evident in his first title, My Louise, a memoir of the struggle of Collins's wife, Louise, as she battled breast cancer, and his own battle against his grief after her death. As Meredith Parets noted in Booklist, "[Collins's] account of Louise's courage and his grief in the face of this reality are moving and true, as are his frank depictions of the ravages—both psychological and physical—of her treatments." A critic for Kirkus Reviews recognized that "the author's description of slow footsteps on the stairs as his father comes to deliver the news of Louise's death is heartfelt in its simplicity."
A Publishers Weekly reviewer described the personal revelations contained in My Louise with the observation that "most notable is [Collins's] evolving perspective on parenting, from the subtle and sad transition as he takes over primary care of Robin when Louise is no longer able." But life, not death, is the overriding theme of the book. "The biggest problems seem to solve themselves," Collins concludes in My Louise. "I think I'll just point myself in the right direction, fold away this picture of my wife and daughter in my heart, and let the adventure continue."
Collins told CA: "While I have written a few stories and some poetry over the years, and have written professionally in my job as a reference book editor, I have always wanted to someday write a 'serious' literary book. My Louise, my first published book, details my thoughts and reflections in the months and years immediately following my wife's death from breast cancer in 1997. As such it is not really the book I had imagined writing (I was thinking along the lines of a novel or collection or stories), but it became the book I needed to write at that time. About a year after Louise's death I found myself having a difficult time processing the many emotions of grief (principally anger bordering on rage, but also plenty of sadness too). On top of that I was also struggling to keep my head above water in the raising of our daughter Robin, who was just two-and-a-half years old at the time of Louise's passing.
"In many ways I see a writer's task as being one of bringing an order to chaos—of sifting through a maze of thoughts, feelings, and ideas and bringing them to some kind of sense that is pleasing both intellectually and artistically. I found that in my grief I had all the material I needed for a book that could prove helpful first to myself (as a catharsis) and my daughter (as something for her to read when she is older, to help her understand this important time in her young life). Secondly, I hoped that it could help others who had experienced a similar kind of loss and had not found the means or time to express themselves or otherwise do that important work of finding some resolution to their grief, some meaning or reason to move on. So it was a combination of all these things that motivated me to write My Louise.
"While the book has as its focus a woman's tragic death at a young age from breast cancer, I do not really see it as a 'breast cancer book.' I intentionally steered clear as much as possible from clinical details of the disease and treatments, choosing instead to focus on the wreckage that breast cancer leaves behind. I see the book being more about grief than anything else—the ways in which the grieving mind (in this case, mine) uses everything at its disposal—memory, intellect, faith, anger and fear to name but a few—to find the strength and more importantly, a reason to move on.
"Of course, the book is also a tribute to my wife and to her incredible courage. It is about Louise and the loss of Louise and all the ramifications of both. To me breast cancer is what took her away from us—something to be reckoned with certainly, and something to be enlightened about—but to make it the focus of this book would be to give it too much power. While breast cancer took Louise from us, my book was a way to reclaim her memory on terms that we can live with.
"Because the book is about grief, I felt that the central narrative voice had to be distinctly my own. Writing from the point of view of a newly widowed young man, I felt it important to be exactly that—in all of its authenticity and, at times, raw emotion. To help convey the way the mind sifts back and forth from the present moment to memory and back again, I presented the narrative in a very non-linear way. I also thought that by juxtaposing some of the sadder and more personal stories of Louise's illness and death with more immediate tales of my daily struggles as a single father, I could break the story up somewhat and make it more readable and interesting. In that sense I wrote the book in a number of smaller pieces and then wove them together in a way that I thought would be rhythmic and lyrical."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Collins, David, My Louise: A Memoir, Ontario Review Press (Princeton, NJ), 2002.
Booklist, September 15, 2002, Meredith Parets, review of My Louise, p. 183.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of My Louise, p. 1088.
Publishers Weekly, August 5, 2002, review of My Louise, p. 64.