Interesting new book

David giving brief remarks

Hi everyone,

Thanks to all who shared thoughts and tips about your sources of ideas for writing. I enjoyed it and am sure that many others did as well. Please don’t stop adding to that post. I’d like to see it continue to grow and become a handy resource for many others.

Has anyone read MFA VS NYC? I’m just starting it. My friend Charlotte Collier gave it to me. The subtitle is THE TWO CULTURES OF AMERICAN FICTION. Edited by Chad Harbach, it explores the rise in influence of universities via graduate and undergraduate writing programs during the past thirty years versus the “NYC” traditional trade publishing industry.

I’ve only read the introduction but it reminds me of statements by Dana Gioia in his book, CAN POETRY MATTER, in which he says that there are probably more poems written, more collections published, and more poetry readings given now than ever before — but outside academia few people seem to care. Newspapers have dropped their poetry section. Reviewers have turned their attention elsewhere. And trade publishers struggle more than ever to find room for poetry on their lists.

I look forward to reading MFA VS NYC to learn if the two major influences in today’s fiction are locked in a similar struggle between what is written and what is selling. Let me know if you’ve already read the book and have an opinion to share. Or, for that matter, if you have an opinion anyway.



7 comments on “Interesting new book

  1. Thanks for the book suggestion. I just put it on hold at the library. I have been wondering a little about this because as I read the bios on book jackets, it seems more and more people have an MFA in writing. And it seems a lot of authors are the instructors in those programs. I’m excited to learn a little more about this shift.

    • Adrienne, I’ll look forward to your own take when you read the book. I haven’t checked yet to see if university presses have proliferated in pace with university-authored fiction. Might be interesting to see.

    • Hi, Paul! It’s good to hear from you. Judging by the provocative chapter titles and diversity of contributors, I expect some fascinating opinions.

  2. I read his article in some mag, can’t remember the name, which prompted the book he edited with other writers’ essays. Since I’m working on an MFA, I can tell you it’s hard work. I’ve also sold a lot more books than most of my teachers, but in entirely different areas. I’ve learned a lot, mostly by reading and writing about structure or style or viewpoint in the books I’ve had to read.
    One teacher told me that the sayings is “You can’t teach writing, but you can learn to write.” I think craft can be taught. I think writing from the heart is the talent part.
    And as a former teacher for a correspondence writing course, I know I made more money by teaching than writing. I make more per hour speaking about writing than writing. Still, writing is the credential that opens the door to the paying gigs. And writing is certainly the fun part and the hard part.

  3. Also, I’d like to add, that I approached the MFA program with a lot of trepidation. I didn’t want to be with people who I through belonged in the emperor’s-new-clothes crowd with me being the one standing up and saying this stuff is awful. I didn’t want to be with pretentious people or arrogant writers. There are some there. One guy called the Pulitzer Prize winning The Goldfinch ‘airport reading.’ I’m not a great fan of the book, but I’ve met no one there who wouldn’t give his right arm to win a Pulitzer. I’ve found the younger ones are more arrogant, and I think I was, too, when I first started writing.
    Well, a lot more discussion can be had here when we’ve all read Harbach’s book. I read his novel The Art of Fielding and enjoyed it.

    • Veda, I was counting on your input for this discussion. I knew that you’re at work on your MFA and would have informed opinions. Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. I look forward to more as we go along, especially after someone gets the book read enough to report on it. I plan to start fairly soon, maybe before I finish what I’m reading now.

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