MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction (Anglais) Broché – 25 février 2014
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For example: What about the very thriving poetry scene in and around the Bay area of San Francisco, with its dozens of literary bookstores and coffee shops, and as many readings per week?
What about the hundreds of small presses around the country, many of them of very high quality?
What about all the new options for self-publishing? I myself have a website on which dozens of my articles, essays, works of fiction appear. Two of my novels are Kindle E-Mail books. Otherwise I have published in Europe. I dont consider either NYC or the MFA as viable options.
I, also, was "educated" in this false notion, in college, that the only "scenes" in American literature were in NYC or the universities. It's taken me years to realize how wrong this is.
In addition, apart from Mr. Hudson's essay, the writing in this anthology is, by and large, mediocre.
I am not a professional writer, but I do read a lot and enjoy the process of reading. Harbach's alternating chapters of MFA and NYC illuminated for me the great struggle that student writers and professional writers are engaged in to get their work to an audience, and to make a living from their craft. There are several industries undergoing immense change - newspaper publishing, music recording, hotel/spare room reservations, etc. After reading this book, it seems to me that the literary world should undergo a similar revolution. Both of the current choices, either masters degree or trail by fire in New York City, involve a huge amount of cost, both financial and personal. I read many of the personal vignettes with empathy and compassion - literary artists reduced to concerns of the bottom line as opposed to creating the highest possible merit in contemporary literature.
Although this book is very very different from Harbach's first novel, I found it interesting and a relatively quick read. I am not currently in the publishing industry or in the academic world, but I can nonetheless recommend "MFA v. NYC" as an engaging exploration of the struggles young writers face as they navigate their professional literary journeys.
a few takeaways:
--writing is suffering from an image of "only something the young do." Like most lit mags these days, you need to make allowances for the cutesy references to loving This American Life, being "totally alienated all through high school" (most barftastic theme ever), and all the other "I'm a Millennial!" signposts.
--Elif Batuman's essay is pretty devastating toward MFA culture and she is hands down the best writer ever associated with this magazine. I went to the tenth issue party and Keith's opening sentence was, "Elif Batuman can't be here tonight, sorry, I know this event sucks now, sorry about that."
--surprised no one mentions John Gardner, the proponent of the "fictional dream."
--writing is commercial and a life's work all at the same time
--these essays basically cry out for the conservative point of view, that some maturity and life wisdom count for something, since neither MFA or NYC siders seem very happy. Word to the wise: if you are ever reading something that resolves itself with a shrug like many of these essays do, remember that there is another point of view out there.
--either you get it, or you don't
Good read that will reconfirm your hopes/fears and that's a good thing.