Tag Archives: Novelists

The Literary Industrial Complex

“The MFA isn’t about developing a unique style at all, but about learning how to sound like already published writers. It’s about gaining entrance to the club. Look closely at the promotional materials of creative-writing programs and you’ll almost invariably see a host of proper names—these are the people with whom you can expect to rub shoulders, if not directly, then by association through the former graduates that have passed through the program or the mentors of your mentors whose influence will surely rub off on you. It’s about having the opportunity to insert yourself, however virtually, into that literary social network.

While something may happen in MFA programs, perhaps that thing is more behavioral than artistic. When we look at the data, the MFA seems to be helping people sound like everyone else. To put a positive spin on it, we could say the degrees help writers fit into the literary landscape. Like the universities to which these programs belong, the MFA may offer a way of gaining entrance to an elite club. You learn the rules of the road, at least as defined by the publishing industry and literary reviews. At its worst, it doesn’t do anything at all.

From: theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/03/mfa-creative-writing/462483/

The CIA + the MFA = https://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/

More Reading Writing Spying:

Writers and the truth in writing

“…given what seems like an endless stream of spectacular literary hoaxes and other transgressions over the last 20 or 30 years, it seems appropriate for writers from time to time to stand up and preach the value of a practical truth: There are standards of reliability in fiction and non-fiction, and it helps us all when writers adhere to them, and it hurts us all when they fall to the wayside. …

When you learn that a story or anecdote in a literary work is not true, you begin to doubt everything in that work. And when you learn that a work has been debunked as untrue or unreliable, you begin to doubt the truthfulness of every author and the reliability of every text — an effect that is caustic to any culture.”

Thus, writers ought to follow these simple guidelines:

“1. Any degree of fabrication turns a story from non-fiction into fiction, which must be labeled as such. (A person cannot be a little pregnant, nor a story a little fictional.)

2. The writer, by definition, may distort reality by subtraction (the way a photo is cropped), but is never allowed to distort by adding material to non-fiction that the writer knows did not happen.”

Read More: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/writing-tools/181176/why-nonfiction-writers-should-take-a-vow-of-chastity/


When does a novelist retire?

“The fact is that authors seldom retire. Many don’t want to; others couldn’t afford to. So they keep going till death drags them from their desk or they lose their marbles, whichever fate strikes earlier. Unfortunately they may find that while they still have their marbles, they no longer have a public, those who used to buy their books having already suffered one of these fates, or having simply stopped reading new books – even new books from old authors. Losing their public, they are likely, quite understandably, to lose their publisher too. This may grieve, but not entirely surprise, them; it began to seem likely when they discovered a couple of books back that their new editor was a decade or two younger than their own middle-aged children.

“We used to live on royalties,” Anthony Burgess once said to me, “but now we live on advances.” This was true in his time, but now the advances are shrinking, and the royalties disappearing. So they go on working, but do so, if they are honest, in the knowledge that what they are writing in their old age is not near as good as the best of the books they wrote thirty or forty years ago. This is sad but not surprising. They no longer have either the physical or mental energy that used to drive them on. Moreover they have probably exhausted their material, and any new material they happen on may be thinner than the old stuff.

Occasionally they pick up a novel they wrote long ago, and read it with surprise, admiration, and then pain. And then they think: “Fielding and Jane Austen and all the Brontës were already dead at the age I was when I wrote that – and so they didn’t have to find matter for a new novel in their sixties, seventies, eighties…”

More: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/allanmassie/100061155/novelists-used-to-die-young-now-they-must-confront-and-write-throughout-their-old-age/

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