Q. Have you read the book After The Workshop: A Memoir by Jack Hercules Sheahan: A Novel by John McNally, which seems to include a pretty strong reference to your blog? If so, what did you think?
LROD: Yeah. That novel came out a few years ago. I am friends with the agent representing the book, who knows this is my blog, but we have never spoken about the fictionalization in his author's book about LROD. I didn't really know what to make of it, so I never really commented on it. I suppose I should be flattered to make it into the literature, as they say. I find it amusing, which is what I guess the author's intent is, though it seems slightly defensive too, like maybe he is still working out getting a thrashing here at LROD about his point of view on MFAs. I do feel a little bad that there are people walking around in the world who have gotten thrashed because, as you know, I think politeness is underrated. That said, here is an excerpt of McNally's novel regarding LROD, so that you may judge for yourself:
A year ago, after a late night at the Foxhead, I made the mistake of pulling up a blog dedicated solely to rejections from literary magazines. The site was called "Rejections Are My Heart Break and Misery," and each entry was about rigged contests or impersonal notes from agents who'd turned down the blogger's novel or the cruel wording of submission guidelines. One blog entry that I had drunkenly stumbled onto happened to be about MFA programs, a subject that brought the loons out of their closets by the dozens. Finally, they could rationalize their own lack of success by accusing publishers and writers of being part of a secret cabal, like Yale's Skull and Bones, that refused to let in anyone who didn't know the secret MFA handshake. The comments on the blog came pouring in, one after the other, the sentiment being that MFA'ers were coddled, that they didn't know the real world, that they were handed book contracts and cushy teaching appointments upon graduation, that they came from privileged backgrounds. The words "Ivory Tower" appeared again and again. Although I couln't argue that my own publications weren't born of dubious circumstances, I foolishly decided to weigh in, letting everyone know that I had an MFA, from Iowa no less, and although most of my colleagues had come from backgrounds with money I certainly hadn't. furthermore only a few of my classmates had received cushy teaching appointments after earning their diplomas; the vast majority pierced together work any way they could. Lastly, only a modest percentage of my classmates had published books after graduation, and of those who did, only two had managed to achieve the kind of reputation where someone, somewhere, might actually have heard of him or her.
"You're all so paranoid, I wrote. And then, for lack of a better closing, I wrote, "Good grief!"
I entered my comment, waited a few minutes, and refreshed the page. A man whose nom de blog was "Oscare Wilde and Crazy" responded to my comment with one word: "Bullshit."
I wrote back, "Bullshit?"
"I should kick your ass," Oscar Wilde and Crazy wrote. "You have an MFA from Iowa and you dare come here and chastise us? You're an asshole. Furthermore, I don't believe most of what you've written."
The anonymous blogger, who was known as RAMHAM (the acronym for the blog's name), moderated the comments with such speed that it was only natrual to assume that this person had nothing of import going on in his or her life.
"Now, now," RAMHAM wrote. "No name calling. Keep it civil."
"Are you kidding me?" I wrote back to Oscar. "Why the hell would I be making this up? Who the fuck are you?"
"I know your kind," Oscar wrote. "I live in Cedar Rapids. I see you Iowa snobs all the time. You think your shit doesn't stink..."
"Now, now," RAMHAM chimed back in. "Remember what I told you." (p234)The novel goes on for a while with the fictionalized exchange. Then there is a section where the two commenting adversaries plan to meet one another at a local diner. But the protagonist chickens out at the last minute upon seeing Oscar Wilde and Crazy and denies that he is the guy who agreed to meet. This prompts a tongue lashing on the comments section of RAMHAM, in which Oscar Wilde and Crazy calls the protagonist a "chickenshit mama's boy" and a "hack with an MFA."
You tell me: Should I be flattered or annoyed or simply amused?