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It’s All Good: Jacket Copy Put Your Name on the List

By Harriet Staff

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In her book review at the Los Angeles Times, Carolyn Kellogg considers a new book published by renegade literary outlet, N+1, ruminating on the difference between living in New York and attending an MFA Creative Writing program. Well, we might see you there—fashionably late, of course. From Jacket Copy

You’re invited to a party. It’s going to be fun, because it’s being thrown by writer Chad Harbach, an editor of the literary magazine n+1, where he has been lightheartedly provocative. You’re excited, because “MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction” — in the form of 18 essays divided into five sections — is debating one of the more contentious issues in literary America: whether getting an a master of fine arts degree in creative writing is a good idea, for the individual writer and book culture at large.

You should bring wine — and because you have $25,610.49 left to pay back on the student loans for your MFA, you pick up Charles Shaw.

Harbach’s at the door, setting up the arguments: MFA programs turn writers into timid Raymond Carver imitators (or maybe they don’t); they’re expensive, but they give people time to write and a creative/networkable cohort; they’re a needed source of employment for published authors, but a pyramid scheme for students because there aren’t enough teaching slots for everyone; the MFA ecosystem is now mostly separate from the larger literary culture, with its own stars and economies; living in New York City is as good a way to enter the world of publishing as getting an MFA, and it provides life experience to boot.

The larger question is whether institutionalizing a creative endeavor benefits our culture. The essays in this collection show that though writers may complain about MFA programs, on the whole they take them seriously and see them as a valuable institution. Some even like them. [...]

Continue rollin’ with ye homies, at Jacket Copy.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, February 24th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.