Friday, May 13, 2011

Spouting Edifying Brilliance

The work ethic is close to the one of craft. In the Midwest, where I’m from, it’s hard to escape the notion that you can't get anywhere unless you are willing to work hard at it. As much as I’d occasionally like to believe in innate genius, I no longer think there are so many of them walking around spouting edifying brilliance fully formed. If anything is lacking from the discussion of what makes for brilliant writers, it’s really about how hard they have had to work to get there. Craft, being tied to the notion of work and sweat, probably gets a sniff once in awhile from the unjustifiably entitled, and yet, at the risk of sounding utterly un-hip and downright backwater patriotic, I think hard work is one of the only true legacies of this country’s striving and success. (Granted, capitalism has thrived on this exploitation, but perhaps you get my drift.) Thus, it’s not surprising that an outsider would disdain this humble legacy that has helped foster the MFA program proliferation in the U.S. This is all a long way of saying that I really love and applaud Mark McGurl’s take down of Elif Batuman’s critique of his book, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

West of Here

My review of Jonathan Evison’s West of Here is due in the forthcoming issue of Rain Taxi: “Bearing the hallmarks of an epic yarn, the novel boasts frontier exploits, Native American mysticism, Bigfoot, and an environmental cause wound into its myriad character stories.” Further, the novel manages to ask if a group of industrious settlers can be a detriment to the well-being of their descendants. Sound like a stretch? Read my review of this engrossing and immensely entertaining epic.

The print issue of Rain Taxi (Vol. 16 No.2, Summer 2011 (#62)) is available now.