Friday, July 13, 2012
Rearing its Head
Anonymous 1: "It's gotten to the point where an MFA is a license enabling one to practice. Just like dentistry or law require a license. Can only "trained" writers produce good work? In today's literary world a discriminatory mindset prevails. -- and this is wrong. But those in academia are in the driver's seat -- and they won't change a status quo that favors them. I know -- this is an old gripe, But that doesn't make it any less valid."
Anonymous 2: "No, what makes your gripe less valid is how silly it is. . . ."
Anonymous 1: "Silly? That's it? Perfect example of the attitude I'm talking about. One that reeks of a superior dismissiveness. (BTW, what MFA program did you attend?)"
Anonymous 2: "You don't offer any evidence for your argument--that's what makes it silly. Sorry if that's elitist. Now to begin: have you considered how many people with MFAs are also getting rejected? The MFA is a chance to work with established writers and to network and to teach--in no way is it a license that 'enables one to practice.' I know plenty of MFAers who send out story after story with nothing to show. Also: can only 'trained' writers produce good work? Uh, have you been reading lately? 'Good' work is among the rarest published. 'Good' work has a hard time finding a market. Publishers aren't interested in 'good.' They want something that 'sells.' Academia in the driver's seat? Tell that to the University of Missouri Press, one of the last best places for literary fiction. Their funding has been yanked. Also: Have you considered that in order to get a job in academia, today's writers must first have published with major publishers? Lastly: you're going to dismiss Jacob Appel and his work because of his degree? That is ridiculous. Go back through this blog and read the posts where Jacob is mentioned. He has had to work and work and work. It's insulting that you would try to diminish him in any way by suggesting that he hasn't earned his success. Now, you may not like my attitude but, upon examination, yours is quite a bit worse. A real writer wouldn't begrudge anyone else his/her success, because a real writer understands how difficult it is to write. In an MFA program or not."
Anonymous 1: "You still miss my point. Sure, a lot of writers with an MFA don't get published. But at least they have a shot at getting read. Why else would almost every writer in a magazine or journal of any prestige have an MFA? The point is this: if you do NOT have an MFA, you aren't even in the running (unless you're writng in a popular genre; but I'm talking literary fiction -- by which I mean "good" fiction). Some people in the "establishment" admit this; some even lament it. I had a email discussion about the state of things with an editor in a top tier publication (east coast city) and he wrote me -- exact words: "You're right -- it's all MFA all the time. Don't know quite what to do about it." Why did he respond? Because 1) he was an editor of non-fiction and 2) he was a man in his late sixties. Anybody who writes well has my respect. But a lot of what I see published in the last ten years I don't consider to be good. Much less very good -- or great. A lot of the writers who did great work never got an MFA. Back in the day, it was."