Feb 28, 2015
commented on Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One
"Conversely, I've had students ask if I could assign shorter books, or—without a trace of embarrassment—say they weren't into "the classics" as if "the classics" was some single, aesthetically consistent genre. Students who claimed to enjoy "all sorts" of books were invariably the ones with the most limited taste. One student, upon reading The Great Gatsby (for the first time! Yes, a graduatestudent!), told me she preferred to read books "that don't make me work so hard to understand the words." I almost quit my job on the spot.
After eight years of teaching at the graduate level, I grew increasingly intolerant of writing designed to make the writer look smart, clever, or edgy. I know this work when I see it; I've written a fair amount of it myself. But writing that's motivated by the desire to give the reader a pleasurable experience really is best."
I cannot see how these two paragraphs belong in the same essay. The author dismisses his students for wanting prose to be clear. (Gatsby might not be as mystifying as Ulysses, prose-wise, but it's also kind of loopy and written with a strongly time-specific voice.) The author also dismisses his students for wanting to write something "edgy" or challenging or boundary-pushing.
The only common factor is that the author dismisses his students. As someone with an advanced degree in literature who also writes genre fiction (romance, in fact), I'm pretty appalled at the whole piece.
Aug 12, 2014
commented on What the Hell Does One Do in Juneau?
Definitely go to the top of Mount Roberts, either by tram or the punishing 22-switchback hike up the back. A shame about the State Museum, since it is really stellar and has the Abraham Lincoln totem pole Sarah Vowell mentions in Assassination Vacation. (Also an infographic titled Circumpolar Kayak Distribution, which ought to be an indie band, like, yesterday.) Helicopter rides out to the glacier's surface are touristy as hell but worth every penny.
Jul 9, 2014
commented on The Most Modern Poet
I'm not precisely on poetry's cutting edge, but when I fall for a poet's work I fall hard and I am loving this book so much. They're so intense I have to dole them out slowly, one every couple of days.
Jun 18, 2014
commented on Mike Daisey Announces New Show Titled Yes All Women
Yes, let's definitely give a man the benefit of the doubt when it comes to speaking about/on behalf of a social media conversation about women's experiences. I'm sure there's nothing that could possibly go wrong.
Feb 7, 2014
commented on Which Sketch Turned You into a Monty Python Fan for Life?
A high school friend of mine put on Life of Brian at a party: as disaffected teenage Catholics, it was tailor-made to delight. But what really got me was the bit with Pontius Pilate and his friend Biggus Dickus. Not only because of the ridiculous speech impediment -- though that and a penis joke is High Humor when you're fifteen -- but the canny, bastardish look on Pilate's face while he's deliberately trying to provoke his guards into laughing at him so he can have them fired/tortured/crucified. It's a joke at the expense of a joke. We rewound and watched that scene at least a dozen times.
Feb 5, 2014
commented on Sleepwalking Man in Underwear Sculpture Is Unpopular at a Women's College
I don't put Art-with-a-capital-A on a higher pedestal than someone's sense of physical safety in the place where they live. Yes, good art creates a disturbance, but there should be a purpose to that creation other than the disturbance itself. (Assholes also create a disturbance -- as do predators.) The disturbances of art should have something redemptive or transformative or enlightening about them.
As for how to make it better? I'd love to see a series of photographs of the artist living with this sculpture in their own house. Eating breakfast, with the zombie-dude behind him. Watching tv, while zombie-dude apparently walks by. Gardening, while zombie-dude waters the tomato plants. You'd still get a similar sense of uncanniness, without actually triggering people into panic attacks and flashbacks.