Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Creative writing workshops

The other day, I finally brought my 85 yr old chimp to ride a roller coaster as I long promised but as I ‘m a very responsible father and I know I would be worried sick if he were to ride it alone I joined along, though I know full well that I can’t do any thing if anything goes wrong. And since I did my wife wanted to try too and of course our elder son also joined in. In short the whole family except our daughter who was elsewhere rode the roller coaster for the first time in our lives. What an experience! My wife said she felt like she was momentarily dead and came back alive (strange that she knows how death feels like). I thought I might have passed out for a few seconds during the loop but my chimp only wanted to do it again. So much for adventure for me. It’s nothing but torture .

But it gets me wondering how can all those idealists stand torture and stand their ground. Those political prisoners with the fingernails taken off with plyers, penises clipped with electrodes and so forth. As for me I’d own up to anything at the mention of penis. I’ll never make a good soldier or anarchist. I’m a coward just like most of YOU too.

So what do thinking cowards do? They just read serious fictions. How sad….but I’ll just leave to others to play heroes and blow themselves up. Talking about serious fictions; I just finished reading a couple of fine essays in old Harper’s magazine and Atlantic monthly which dealt with creative writing workshops and courses (which are mainly responsible for the explosion of these literary works that are getting more and more inbred by the day ). Lynn Freed “ My years in the creative writing gulag” (Harper’s Magazine July 2005) is a full 8 pages of whinnying about her experience teaching creative writing classes and how hopeless and delusional most students of these writing workshops and MFA were. And what luck that I immediately stumbled upon Rick Moody’s “Writers and Mentors” in The Atlantic Fiction issue 2005 which act as a nice counterpoint to Lynn Freed gulag years . His essay was about his experience as a student of creative writing classes and oh, what a bunch of useless twats these creative writing teachers were !

Sounds like a bad marriage to me but it can not be that bad if these classes occasionally produce writers the like of Ishiguro and McEwan. Never mind all those thousands who are left on the wayside and come back to earth and become normal human beings. But some of them are equally gifted but just don’t have the luck (don’t burn all those manuscripts just yet )…

hey - glad you wrote this - cheered me up
"it can not be that bad if these classes occasionally produce writers the like of Ishiguro and McEwan"

My question is: would Ishiguro and McEwan have been as good if they hadn't attended these classes?

And my answer is: yes!
sharon, i need cheering up myself most of the time too...books sometimes do the trick but not always...

you're probably quite right , or may be wrong ron.

creative writing classes seem to me is not designed to unearth or cultivate the best but to rid the worst.

but then again, who is to complain if you can have say, kurt vonnegut as your teacher (who tought Andre Dubus, John Casey and John Irving among others at the university of iowa)
just discovered this blog.

but i hear it is an open secret in the american and british publishing industry that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get published in lit journals or as a noveist without an mfa or ma in writing or english. there was also a big controversy recently in maud newton's blog about the yiyun li controversy in paris review. not sure, but that's what i heard.
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