Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Literary writers' smackdown

Last week in this post I linked to an essay in which Elizabeth Clementson slammed MFA writing programs. I'd heard all of her criticisms before, just not distilled into a single article, and while I thought she'd probably gone a bit overboard with her criticism, this week's guest columnist over at Moby lives, Steve Almond, appears to have leaped off the other side of the same boat:

Reading Elizabeth Clementson's column Down With MFAs left me with a renewed sense of wonder: just how much fraudulence can one aspiring writer pack into one column? The answer: a lot.

There are plenty of others who have already exposed her flimsy, self–involved arguments, so I'm not going to waste time on an extensive rehash.

But I do want to make a couple of points, mostly because I'm so entirely sick of these "outsiders" who blame their own artistic failings on some supposedly inimical establishment that refuses to recognize them.

If you can get past that overly emotional opening, Mr. Almond does indeed make a couple of good points. But from where this outsider stands, it looks like both writers are wearing blinders. I suspect the truth about the usefulness of MFA programs must lie somewhere in the middle. Since each writer takes a unique set of skills and expectations into the classroom, doesn't it stand to reason that each might have a different experience there? I will also hazard a guess that the quality of the programs varies widely.

Well. I'm not going to think about this any more this morning. Let the "serious" writers fight it out. I'm going back to work on my non-literary romance novel.

2 comments:

Robin Bayne said...

"I'm so entirely sick of these "outsiders" who blame their own artistic failings on some supposedly inimical establishment that refuses to recognize them."

Acck. Can't we get away from this type of issue in *any* aspect of the writing business?

Effie said...

Honesty to goodness, has anyone said why is she boosting up her husband's lack of a MFA degree in his establishment of a small vanity press?