Vicarious MFA: Two week round-up.
The thing about getting an MFA is that time tends to move really quickly when your “job” is to read and talk about great books and write on a deadline all the time. So, it looks like two weeks went by without me really noticing. Things were discussed. Revelations were had. D’agata talked about dancing in sequined pants…
First, the notes from John D’agata lecture:
Amy Benson did a great job introducing him; she even handed out postcards with a picture of a brain neuron on one side and a quote from Flat Earth Map: An Essay on the other side.
D’agata opened by revealing some gruesome details about the recent surgery on his gums. Ouch/Gross/Awesome. His talk was about so many things: a letter from a Sumerian,
+Sometimes an essay is trying to pull of neat tricks with language and structure, etc, but when there is ultimately no point to the essay this is like putting on a pair of sequined pants and dancing to distract your reader from the fact that nothing is going on. Duly noted.
+If you went to a restaurant and they had “yummy spaghetti” on the menu, you would not order it because it sounds too desperate. This is like the term “creative nonfiction.” D’agata doesn’t care so much for it.
+When someone asked him about something related to the “facts” in his essays he gave us some advice that he told us to make sure we did NOT take. “It’s ok to put words in someone’s mouth as long as you’re not putting ideas in their mouth, but do not follow my advice. I am talking to myself right now, not you guys.”
Selected notes from two days of Non/Fiction seminar:
(day one) The unreliable narrator in nonfiction.
Memoir sometimes has a built-in unreliability and the reader is given a responsibility.
Memories of a Catholic Girlhood: visceral sense of personality. performance, loss of self-awareness.
(day two) Discursive Fiction: See Ben Marcus’s essay in a back issue of the Believer.
working with the readers’ expectations, Life of Joseph Roulin, blend of fiction, history & historical fiction. So French!
Some notes from two days of Lethem’s class:
(day one) The final (and only) writing assignment: write a personal essay with one major & deliberate formal choice (ie, footnotes, numbered sections, etc.) and include one deliberate lie. Due March 2.
Leonard Michaels: an invulnerable essay about vulnerability.
Out of Sheer Rage (insanely great book.) Written about something he loves too much (in this case, DH Lawrence), focuses onhis relationship to DHL’s work instead of the work itself.
Random student comment: “This book reminded me of Stuff White People Like.”
(day two) handed out an essay by Robert Smithson.
SENTENCES: (1) transactional artifact (2) commercial objects.
The novel’s reaction to Hollywood: Greene, Nabokov
Discussed David Shield’s forthcoming book of which we had galley copies. (Everyone, just go ahead and pre-order it. It is an invigorating read.)
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for a dual-recap of Elie’s class.