Rumpelstitskin is one of my favorite fairy tales. (Click here to have some guy read it to you.) It made me sad as a child- I felt so sorry for Rumpelstiltskin. I would be haunted by his misfortune after reading the story. I had no feelings for the girl. Hm. Theories exist claiming it is an anti-semitic tale. Regardless, as we can still read Pound and Hemingway even though they were crazy anti-semites, I still can read Rumpelstitskin with the great pleasure of compassion it stirs in me. Click here for some very funny “new’ uses of the word Rumpelstiltskin. Click here to read the story itself- it takes a few minutes. And click here to learn about the metal band, Rumpelstitskin Grinder.
In the NYT today, Mark C. Taylor (no relation), the chair of the religion department at Columbia, argues that “GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning.” He outlines a six-point plan for restructuring how graduate (and, later, undergraduate) educational institutions are structured and how they operate. He makes a number of good points–and a few I’m ambivalent about–but here’s one that especially resonated with me:
The dirty secret of higher education is that without underpaid graduate students to help in laboratories and with teaching, universities couldn’t conduct research or even instruct their growing undergraduate populations. […] In other words, young people enroll in graduate programs, work hard for subsistence pay and assume huge debt burdens, all because of the illusory promise of faculty appointments. But their economical presence, coupled with the intransigence of tenure, ensures that there will always be too many candidates for too few openings.
He’s talking about the more traditional kind of academic, but I think the point is a salient one for MFAs and other creative degrees as well. The idea that all, or even most, of the people who specialize in a creative discipline will then be in a position to make any sort of living at the practice of that discipline is at best a willful delusion, and at worst a pernicious lie.
The semester is almost over; just six class meetings left and about 47 parties. I omitted last week because I was trying to give you the “full experience” of getting an MFA. There will always be something that you weren’t around for (I missed George Saunders’s and Gary Lutz’s guest lectures last year) or some class that you were too sleep-deprived to actually understand. (Ok, actually, I was busy.)
Today in Non/Fiction we’re talking about W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Class discussion should go something like this: I liked it. It was weird. I didn’t like it. Man, he was doing a whole lot of stuff in there! Whew!
Awesome quote from The Rings of Saturn about what happens when you spend a lot of time writing:
“For days and weeks on end one racks one’s brains to no avail, and, if asked, one could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane. Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the precise degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see in the increasing complexity of our mental constructs a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life.
A summary of the phantom week is after the jump.
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is the dystopian novel you’ve never read. Or maybe you have read it. I don’t know. I had not heard of it until I found it on a recommended reading list of Russian novels, and then a former student of mine learned of my planned trip to Russia and loaned me his copy.
What follows the jump is another post about my ongoing Russian lit reading experience. This post is in two parts: the first considers We‘s place in the world, which I thought I should share because the novel doesn’t seem all that popular or familiar to readers, though that was only my experience; the second part consists of a selection from the book and a quick revisit of Notes from the Underground.
April 27th, 2009 / 1:59 am
I am so fascinated by Jimmy Chen’s peeks into the bookshelves and psyches of Giant readers, that I find myself wondering what volumes were lying on the periphery of the pictures submitted for Haut or Not, outside the camera’s some-encompassing portrait. What books do we not want our fellow tea-sipping lit snob confederates to see? I think we should lay it all out on the line, and I’ll start. In the interest of full disclosure, I won’t even stop at one bastard lovechild—I’ll give you three.
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand: The heroes are libertarian caricatures, the underlying philosophy is borderline psychotic and it’s a bazillion pages long. But, damn it, Rand plays me like a fiddle, and after each time I’ve read it (twice, so far), I emerge like the second coming of Ron Paul for about a month, until I remember that I’m not really a fascist asshole.
Any book by Clive Cussler: Sure, some are better (Treasure, Cyclops) than others (any of his latter day sins), but this modern master of pulp has written some of the best devil-may-care banter I have ever read. I wrote to him when I was in Little League, and not only did Cussler write back, but sent me the original postscript page, edits and all, of his book Inca Gold. Dude rules.
Shroud of the Thwacker, by Chris Elliott: I waited in line to get him to sign my copy of this book. Which he did. As Hiram T. Wifflepop III.
What books are you ashamed to love?
i can’t remember if something about THUNK has already been posted. but it is an entertaining site. there are interviews from many many authors. barry graham is the latest interviewee. read all of the interviews.
So, forgive me for posting, but there’s more talk about Narrative Magazine, which just announced the results of its Winter Fiction Contest: $3,000 goes to the winner, Janet Burroway.
The discussion begins at Literary Rejections on Display, where Writer, Rejected points at an old post at Arts and Palaver that suggests Eds. Jenks and Edgarian ‘fix’ the contests. Elizabeth Brody comments on the LROD post that she is working with Web del Sol to investigate Narrative Magazine. Then Jason Sanford, after posting the Notable Stories of 2008 and awarding Narrative Magazine best online journal of 2008, responds to various concerns at his blog. Words continue over at the Our Stories blog, where Alexis Santi offers suggestions to Tom Jenks and Carol Edgarian as to how they could improve Narrative Magazine‘s transparency. It was suggested that someone ought to post Narrative Magazine Inc.’s 990s, to which a commentor, Andrew W., responded by linking to the Foundation Center and reporting a few things:
Unfortunately it’s not all that helpful in putting together of story of exactly how they spend their money: for example, in 2007, Narrative had assets in excess of $230,000 (w00t!) and spent $50,000 on editorial services, $15,000 on copyediting, $29,000 on a webmaster, and $39,000 on author fees. There’s no way to know what the actual breakdown on all that was without asking them, but it’d be good to know how in the world they can spend $29,000 in one year on a webmaster.
I figured I might as well (re)post that information here.
After the break, a few selections from the 990. If you care to look at the entire 990 that Narrative Magazine Inc. filed for the year 2007, you may do so by clicking on this link (PDF). If you care to search the Foundation Center’s 990 Finder, then enter Narrative Magazine Inc.’s EIN: 03-0542711.
April 26th, 2009 / 2:05 pm