Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In defense of outspoken, attractive authors

This is an interesting essay by Stephen Elliott about why it shouldn’t matter if authors are total chach-bags. I’m glad someone is defending me, finally.

11 comments:

Megan said...

thank you meghan for the article. now i'm all riled up because i think this article is dumb.

why do writers think that every thought they have deserves to be an article? i think stephen elliot has too much free time to think about this shit.

everybody knows that all writers are chach-bags. we prefer when writers are chach-bags. it is expected.

maybe i'm stupid. are there really people who won't read work by writers who are (or aren't, as the case may be) chach-bags? stephen elliot acts as if we're all going to stop reading because we don't like writers' personalities. maybe there really are readers who are that stupid out there. but they don't deserve to be literate.

writers are celebrities, at least in literary circles; face it, stephen elliot. that's how it be. but it doesn't mean readers are retarded.

this article has made no mark on humanity, readers, or kittycats anywhere.

Meghan said...

I liked the article, but I also think that every thought I have deserves to be an article. I don't think he says people are going to stop reading. I think he's saying that it's stupid for a critic for the NY Times to waste book review space talking about if one is or isn't a chach-bag. One gets enough of such commentary from one's ex-girlfriends.

Megan said...

ooh, debating is fun. i hope my comment wasn't offensive. i hate everything.

i agree; reviews should remain reviews, not gossip columns. then again i hate most reviews and maybe i want them to be gossip columns instead. no, no, they should remain reviews. i just don't think the topic of the article is really that big of a problem.

one moment in the article that i became really put off by was the last line, which seemed super melodramatic, and also offensive to me.

"If we reinforce the idea that there is a correct and incorrect way for an author to act, if we refuse to acknowledge art because we disapprove of the way the artist behaves, the loss will be immense, and it will be our own."

(whoops, that's technically plagiarized, isn't it?)

that's where i feel like he's insulting "lowly" everyday readers, and where i saw him as a typical chachbag writer looking down on "the masses" who are only smart enough to make decisions based on personality.

i also think his criticism of mfa programs is offensive to students. what you write is your own choice--if you let your mentors dictate what you write, that's your problem, not theirs and not the program's.

every writer thinks he knows how everybody else should write; i don't think this is some widesweeping symptom of mfa programs, that they are all prescribing the same type of writing.

as if mfa students are little spineless sponges, or programmable robots. i think he puts them on the same level as he puts "readers" in other parts of the essay. not that there aren't mfa students who are spineless sponges, of course. but it's not the program's fault.

Meghan said...

I like debating. Reading the article autobiographically (which seems somewhat against the point), Elliott writes fiction that's on the borderlands between memoir and is all about sex, so I read it as an implicit defense of his own work, or any work really. I like his work a lot. Also, he was recently a Stegner fellow at Stanford, so he's probably railing against his own workshop experience. This essay seems to be related to this essay about doughy bland Brooklyn fiction.

Meghan said...

We should do a self-help project for the spineless spongue MFA students! It should be as un-helpful as possible. I hope Kathy gets back soon to work on this.

Meghan said...

I wonder if Tao Lin will let us use his title "MFA in Hamsters" for our self-help publication. You can't copyright titles anyway. Or we could do MFA in Lemurs, which I think might be a more useful and marketable degree (low-residency with classes in teaching the craft of teaching lemurs). I hate the word 'craft'.

Meghan said...

I think part of our MFA self-help for lemurs should prescribe the reading of Gracey Paley and Denis Jonson (while simultaneously reading Stephen Elliott and Miranda July, who are so clearly influenced by the former) until one's head explodes or one is no longer able to write in third-person or spell "Munro." Also, one should be eating cotton candy while this happens. That kind you get in a bag at Blockbuster.

Megan said...

this is our next project for sure. can i teach a seminar on perfecting one's pretentious reading voice? (hamsters and lemurs will always be in the background causing a lot of chaos during this course.)

speaking of bratty writers, there can also be a course on how to sleep with jorie graham, which will really just consist of having her attend the class. the students won't have to do anything. if they are true sponge-mfa-ers, she will get naked immediately.

stephen elliot is actually right to criticize mfa students; they are totally sponge hacks; i momentarily forgot. i take back my earlier comment.

Meghan said...

Can I be Jorie Graham?

Meghan said...

Yes, I think you should teach a class in that. You can teach it out of my office at school. I've got a lot of half naked Barbie dolls and a podium.

Megan said...

oh yeah the l and l department would LOVE it.