Saturday, November 27, 2010

For the Hip-Deep in MFA and Publishing Worlds

Chad Harbach's piece in SLATE -- on MFA programs, NYC publishing, and all things betwixt the two -- it's provocative or, at least, it provoked me.

Here is my response -- an email sent to Chad on Facebook.

chad -
just read the slate piece. i get it -- intimately -- as one who lives in many worlds (academic, novelist, poet...). but there's one thing that i missed in the piece. it's just something simple. most writers devote their lives to words on the page. we have no choice, really. the piece is written with the backward glance -- as if we got into this knowingly, as if we seek MFAs with practical thought, as if we write not because of an inner engine (a relentless one), but from the outside in, and as if we teach just for the insurance -- not because of the great teachers who poured themselves into us, not because we love the classroom, not because -- damn! -- it's nice to feel of some basic use in the world. i've read some of the early buzz about your work -- and my guess is that it's beautiful and heart-swelling -- that your inner relentless engine created something that charged not just the ambition of editors in NYC publishing, but it charged them emotionally. i'm not saying that i have purity of purpose in my work. i surely don't. i realized early on that readership and respect are both traps. so screw it. there is no purity -- only, for me, the imagination, the devotion to words on the page, the inner relentless engine. and as much as i despise many aspects of academia, i am dedicated to my students. they set me right in the world. a worthy anchor.
i'm very much looking forward to your book -- and, hell, what looks like the beginning of a wonderful career -- no matter where you live or what you do.

all my best,