Advice for Future MFA applicants:On a more serious note, now that I’ve almost read through this year’s batch, here’s the advice I’d give off the top of my head to future MFA fiction applicants. Most of the applicants were interesting people and trying hard and it’s deeply appreciated, particularly when I’m reading so many applications. I don’t think any of the applications I read this year had a single malicious bone in their body. But here are a few things that I would want to be told if I was thinking about applying. Please feel free to steal, revise, mutilate, or dispute:1. Turn in your very best piece of fiction. This really, really matters to me, more than anything else. If I love a piece of writing, I will fight for it, and am willing to overlook a multitude of other sins.
2. Better to turn in one shorter excellent piece than a good piece and one bad one. Don’t turn in work just to max out the page limit. And if you’re finding yourself trying to cram all sorts of things into the page limit by changing the font and single-spacing, then step back and take a deep breath and think again.
3. Don’t try to pretend you’re something you’re not. Most of you don’t, and those of you who do don’t do it maliciously, but just kind of slowly convince yourself into it as you write and rewrite your application. Look, it’s easy to tell if you’re faking. So don’t fake.
4. Be honest, but “we’re dating and getting serious” honest rather than either “First date honest” or “Now that you’ve proposed, here’s all the stuff you need to know about me (like the fact that I killed my first wife)” honest. You can and should talk about your struggles and successes and trials and etc., but in moderation.
5. In the personal statement, write about yourself in a way that allows us to get a real sense of you and the way you are now, right now, and where you’re going. If you feel you have to go back to childhood to do that, that’s okay, but if I go away with a better sense of how you were when you were in 2nd grade (or whatever) than how you are now, that’s not good.
6. Read interesting things and learn how to talk about them in interesting ways. Read, read, read. And read eccentrically. Take chances. There’s no reason, no matter what your job or your circumstances, that you shouldn’t be reading an interesting book every week or two, and that’ll do a great deal for your development as a writer and as a person. It’s okay to let us know what books led you to writing, but better if we find out what books you continue to go back to and who you’re interested in now.
7. Don’t pretend to have read something that you haven’t read. Don’t google the faculty at a program and then try to include a line in your personal statement that suggests what their book is about. This rarely works, and as a result usually does more harm than good.
8. We’re interested in knowing what makes you unique, but within reason. And even if you have a great set of experiences and are incredibly interesting and we’d love to have an 8-hour long coffee with you to learn about your experiences running Substance D. from the American camp to the Norwegian camp in Antarctica, if your writing sample isn’t good enough you won’t get in. There comes a time when you need to choose to work on the writing instead of getting life experience as a carny.
9. If you already have an advanced degree, you have to explain convincingly why you want to get another, and why we should give this opportunity to you rather than to someone else. If you already have a PhD, we need to be convinced that this is the right thing for you and for us, and that you’re not just collecting degrees. But, honestly, the default acceptances for MFAs is usually (but not always) someone who doesn’t yet have an advanced degree. We’ve taken people with advanced degrees in our program, but it’s very much the exception rather than the rule.
10. If you already have a book out, same thing. Are you serious about improving your writing or do you want to treat this as a sort of an artist colony? If the latter, well, I’d suggest an artist colony: they’ll feed you, and we usually won’t. If I get the impression that you want to get the MFA mainly to have a teaching credential, that can be one or more strikes against you.
11. MFA programs make mistakes. We don’t always see the potential of people, which may be partly our fault and partly your own. Do everything you can when you put together your application to make sure that the fault is on our side rather than yours. But also remember: any really good program ends up with many more people they’d like to admit than they actually can admit. When it comes down to that final cut, it’s very very hard, and we’ll have to let people go who, ideally, we’d love to have come. So, if you don’t get in, don’t take it as a judgement. To our shame, we’ve turned down many great writers before, and probably will again. But fingers crossed that it won’t be you…
are live and listed now, with this year’s final judge Brian Evenson.
1.) The University of Indiana’s main library sinks one inch per year. Why? The engineers forgot to calculate the weight of? [Go ahead, lovers, guess]
2.) Badass Pub Crawl in LA. What do you say to Aimee Bender while drunk? “Yo! Can I stumble into, vomit on every reviewer so lazy as to compare you to Ray Carver, Aimee? ? Can I be like your anklet monitor, Aimee? Just near you? I like the way you spell your name.” Crash.
3.) “true originality doesn’t exist anyway, only authenticity” Bullshit meter?
4.) An interview with Carole Maso (Brian Evenson on the inquiry machine). This is old, OK. “HTML is a blog, what is this old shit, yo?” Blah blah. Go lift weights in the shower, so you can sweat yourself and clean yourself simultaneously. Now you’re in the future. So chill-axe.
5.) This Heide Hatry shit is bloody and controversial so just be careful and don’t swoon on me. (We all know pigs are smarter than dogs [don't get me started on cats] but pigs taste great, right?] Etc. Etc. Yawn. Slurp. Etc.
Smart blog post on experimental short story by Charles May.
When Donald Barthelme’s first collection of stories, Come Back, Dr. Caligari, appeared in 1964, critics complained that his work was without subject matter, without character, without plot, and without concern for the reader’s understanding. For Barthelme, the problem of language is the problem of reality, for reality is the result of language processes.
A post re:– neither repost nor riposte–Blake’s wichtige Liste and (only at first) about Infinite Jest in German. Maybe a chair is a good metaphor for who gets translated. Have you been translated? Have the Important Writers on Blake’s list? And not 25 because Saramago, Ouredník, and Zizek are already others, Ben Lerner’s a poet, Aase Berg’s both, and I’ll write about poets in translation and translation in poets at an other time.
Not sure if anyone went there during all the well DFW grammar talk (thanks, Amy), but imagine translating, say, Oblivion. Good that one of Wallace’s German translators, Ulrich Blumenbach, did just that, presumably (it first appeared in 2006), while whittling away at Infinite Jest, which took him six years and has had, as Unendlicher Spass (literally, the less Shakespearean Unending Fun), endless success: ten times the expected five grand copies have been sold since it appeared at the end of August, on the heels of Infinite Summer, which the publisher, KiWi, has translated too, as 100 Days of Infinite Jest (in German–it ended on 12-1).
In an interview with Der Spiegel, Blumenbach (pictured–in German) regrets that the author never answered his many questions, “a list always growing longer”: it seems Wallace had grown weary of taking translator’s queries, and, according to The Complete Review’s useful paraphrase of a slippery summary (still looking for the original source), considered the Spanish La broma infinita (tr. Calvo and Covian | Mondadori, 2002) and the Italian Infinite Jest (Nesi w/ Villoresi and Giua | Einaudi, 2006) and apparently other attempts (anyone know more?) to have “all failed, more or less.”
In a warm war, France is responding with (900 pp. of) Vollmann’s Rising (not translated by the great Claro, see below, who did six previous tomes, but by one Jean-Paul Mourlon, translator, it seems, of Jimmy Carter and Hilary Clinton). There’s also German Vollmann (3 titles), Spanish Vollmann (3 more), Japanese Vollmann (2), Greek Vollmann (2), and Czech Vollmann, all (not counting the French) with only one title (Butterfly Stories) repeated.
American Genius is only a Great American Novel for now (does it even have a British publisher?), despite Tillman’s first book of stories, Tagebuch einer Masochisten, having appeared in Germany in 1986, four years before her first collection in English, READ MORE >
Two things for you to do if you live where I live and like things like things I like, which maybe if you are like me you will, or if you aren’t like me but you like me, or if you don’t like me and want to know where you can find me because you want to find me there so you can hit me when you find me, which, please, do not do because I don’t deserve that kind of treatment because I didn’t do anything to deserve it, unless I did, and don’t remember or didn’t realize, which is totally possible, but still please don’t hit me
First a reminder that The New York Tyrant event for #7 and for BABY LEG BY BRIAN EVENSON kicks off in just a few hours. Details at Blake’s post from the other day.
Also, I am reading on Monday 11/23 at PS122, with the Wu Ming Collective, that group of Italians who write novels together. I will (probably) be reading from my novel-in-progress. If I don’t chicken out or otherwise lose my shit, this will be the first public reading of material from the ostensible “book.” I don’t know what Wu Ming will be doing. Details at the event’s Facebook page.
Gigantic has posted a Halloween web special which, among other things, includes a conversation with Brian Evenson regarding horror films and his work.
The 17th and titular story of Fugue State is also its lengthiest, and of all those before it, perhaps the tract with the widest aim. Whereas up until now the majority of the texts herein have reckoned with themselves via a manner of constant recursion, spiraling into their own centers, ‘Fugue State’ the story is bookended by situations that find the ever-disassociative protagonist at the cusp of exiting his interior–and yet, in each instance, the bookends ultimately also end up serving as mirrors, reflecting, again, the lack of light onto itself.
As the title suggests, and again as has been the primary defining factors of all of the voices herein, our protagonist suffers from the inability to keep his reality in crystal grips. Any time the sentences find him beginning to ascertain something about himself to be true, or presented as true to the reader, further sentences serve to skew that understanding via small strokes, often questions the protagonist asks himself–”Had he done anything wrong?” “But couldn’t he explain that away?” “’Is anybody there?’” “’Do you remember your name?’” The deeper on we tread into the story, also, the quicker the questions begin to come, as further skewing, and skewing of the skewing, leaves even the questions to be questioned. What is being asked?
October 21st, 2009 / 11:09 am
Fourteenth in the order of stories in Brian Evenson’s Fugue State (out now from Coffee House Press) is ‘Helpful,’ which originally appeared in Bombay Gin.
At this point in the collection, we have looped through loops of cold expanse and careful molding, each rendered in Evenson’s clean, calm and deadly sentences, most as blank as any stroke of light in a Kenneth Anger film, any globe of far off light.
Here, having crossed over the threshold of those gone rooms, and entered the center of the void via Evenson’s masterful arrangement of the stories so far, the frame of the lenses, like in Anger’s opus Invocation of My Demon Brother, begins to split.
July 30th, 2009 / 12:41 pm
Uh, oh. Get this while you can kids: Brian Evenson’s Baby Leg, from Tyrant Press, in a limited edition illustrated hardback of 400 signed with bloodprints. $30 may seem like a lot to the sensitive kids, but these are going to go fast and never again, and the price at time of release will raise up to $35. I’d pay $80. This is a rarefied, intricate and bloody object, and you need it. Believe that.
Review from Blake Butler
Via a series of sparely rendered dream loops, each wormed so deep into the other that it is no longer safe to say which might be which, Baby Leg extends the already wide mind-belt of Brian Evenson’s terror parade another mile, and well beyond. Those familiar with the Evensonian memory fractals, his freak-noir theaters, and his fetish for leagues of amputees, will find herein not only another puzzle box to nuzzle in its reader’s memory long after the book is closed, but as well enough blood and fearlight and paranoia to make Kafka or Hitchcock seem a foundling. “Who am I?” our narrator, Kraus asks, among Baby Leg’s endless questionings, its barrage. “Where am I?” “What is it?” “And now?” Thereafter, through the magicked wrath of Evenson’s dream speaking, from each of these questions birth more questions, and more questions, on and on, creating around the reader a glassy lockbox much like the one we find, we think, our Kraus, poor thing, inside.
Seriously, how could you start off the first release from a press arm of the already massive Tyrant than this?
Preorder now before you are shelling out for it like they did for The Brotherhood of Mutilation, et al.