January 15th, 2012 / 1:44 pm


  1. Guest

      He’s right.

      I found myself agreeing more with Shivani in this article than any of his other recent screeds against CW

  2. Mike E.

      whoop-de-do. i remember when dale peck was using the same strategy of bemoaning and bear-baiting a decade ago–to call attention away from others to himself. i’d wager shivani’s regular (and regularly) hateful ministrations serve the same therapeutic function for him as do workshops for the cookie-cutter students he imagines (and which i have met so rarely): they help him draw up lines for self-definition. they show him what he is: another contrarian with a bully pulpit. the truth is that he would be more interesting if he weren’t another familiar figure in a nightmare landscape of unconscious imitators.

  3. Jonathan Safran Foer

      Hope everyone notices the ad for EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE 

  4. deadgod

      Creative writing is taught with this single most important premise:  no criticism, as the word is traditionally understood, can be allowed into the workshop.

      Is this “premise” at work in many workshops?  Do creative-writing teachers often forbid “criticism[ ]as the word is traditionally understood”?

      Literature is about having, first of all, a broad humanist understanding of the tradition[.]

      Sometimes true, often not.  This valuing of comprehensiveness of one’s sense of the past is common among literature professors, who reproduce the mode of their “understanding”–scholarship–in their production of knowledge.  There are writers – and great writers – who have relatively quite narrow “understanding[s]” of their “tradition[s]”.

      Literature is […] about penetrating […] what other fiction writers or poets have done in the past […] and realizing what your specific aesthetic challenges are […] and then going about […] resolving the challenge you have set for yourself.

      Some writers undertake their writing lives in this way–programmatically setting out to assimilate “what other fiction writers or poets have done”.  Some creative-writing programs attempt, quickly, to accomplish such a “penetration” of the contents of literary history, or assume that their students will already have begun a life of such an ambition, no?  But certainly this “socialization” of the history of one’s literature is not the only way to make literature; certainly there are great writers who’ve metabolized whatever they’ve read (and heard) without anything like assuming this “therapeutic” hairshirt of Shivani’s.

      a mild form of hazing […] an officially sanctioned sadism

      These might be true of many workshops and creative-writing programs; they are certainly true of the tumescent fantasies of Shivani’s flaccid “criticism”.

  5. Bruno

      Yeah, what Mike E said: whoop-de-do. 

      What Anis Shivani writes is not polemic as it has been understood throughout the history of all time. It’s closer to drunk dialing. 

  6. deadgod

      Should I workshop the novel before I workshop the film?

  7. Jonathan Safran Foer

      Hmmm… they should be selling the hardcover in the theatre. No reason you can’t do both

  8. NLY

      Even if he’s broadly right about some things (what ‘broad’ attempt to educate people in a craft wouldn’t perforce yield to the pitfalls of sameness and mediocrity, often enough?), why can’t he be quick about it?

      Brevity is the sole of wit, and there’s a rock in my sandal.

  9. kb

      I can barely read much new stuff at this point, but when I can I end up feeling that all I got out of it was insight into the author’s narcissism.

      I also think genius exists and you’ve got to dig through so much god damn garbage to find it these days it’s almost not worth it.

  10. Cvan

      So what, brevity is the sole of wit.  Shivani’s writing an essay, not trying to be witty.

  11. Cvan

      The truth is that he wouldn’t be read if so many CW programs weren’t producing so many CWers who read to most as smart people with no voices.  Shivani is not the problem.  Shivani came about because of the problem.  The big 6 have become the music industry.  They publish turds (largely from CW programs) and hype them as gold, but readers can tell the difference, just as music fans have largely given up on coming across quality music through the major labels.

  12. Cvan

      Are you disputing that the models are homogenous?  It is incredible how many people in their late teens/early 20’s are interested mainly in Hemingway/Carver.  Where did that come from otherwise?

  13. Profound Lover

      creative writing and therapy are both just attempts to replicate Seth Abramson

  14. NLY

      Setting aside any other points I might make, and ignoring entirely your second reply to me, I’ll simply point out that ‘wit’ as understood by its original user (a 35 year man in the city of London in the year 1600) meant, rather than just ‘clever’, the faculties of intellect, consciousness, and comprehension. It meant no less than Reason itself.

      The implication is that being able to make your point compactly wasn’t just a way to be ‘witty’ (in our parlance), but was emblematic of your very ability to think and reason. In other words, if Mr. Shivani repeats himself, at great length, day in, day out, week in, week out, it is intensely indicative of some kind of deficiency in his powers of insight and articulation; at least, according to a very old man in the city of Elsinore in the year 1300.

  15. William VanDenBerg

      You sound like you need a hug and a milkshake. Do you want a hug and a milkshake?

  16. deadgod

      [Workshop is surprised that you hastened to submit this reply.]

  17. John Minichillo

      I agree.

      In the past he’s made sweeping gestures but this time he nailed it.

      Literary writing requires an awareness of literary tradition writing students aren’t capable of.

  18. Jonathan Safran Foer

      A double dose of wonderment would do you good Mr. dead

  19. karltaro

      Time was, an mfa program bashing post or link could get 130 comments before burp time.

  20. deadgod

      Wonder moistens the gardens of sentences, Mr. Krauss.

  21. Mike E.

      “The truth is that he wouldn’t be read if so many CW programs weren’t producing so many CWers who read to most as smart people with no voices.” yes, because colleges are factories, right? and students ‘products’? i’ve heard this language before… 

      even if your statement were true, the thinking (and the assumptions) behind it suggests that the bulk of “cwers” would be an untalented lot at the mercies of the instructors who ‘produce’ them, and that we’d still be stuck on a strip with miles of mediocre booksellers. your statement here is in fact a mild restatement of shivani’s blistering bile, with an added snarl at the publishing industry, which your comments suggest you fail to understand (most mfa program graduates would love to but do not publish with them; last i checked, the same was true of “indie” and “experimental” writers; there is no underground tunnel between columbia or iowa and penguin–just ask an unpublished columbia or iowa grad, which count for the majority).  
      you know, it’s tough out there. there are too few publishers, too few readers, too little money. so write a better book. but don’t whine like shivani, like another crybaby clamoring for a fresh bottle of ogre’s milk. you might end up eating your own sour flesh.

  22. Rob

      I’d be a lot more convinced by Shivani’s trolling (or anti-mfa trolling in general) if he called out anyone. WHO are the authors who suck because they went to MFA programs? Who are the teachers who are ruining the next generation of artists with their pedagogical incompetence? I doubt he could actually say since he’s just repeating conventional wisdom at this point, and doesn’t know. It’s so easy to talk shit about people when you don’t say who you’re talking about.

  23. Jonathan Safran Foer

      You would eat my toejam for a personal rejection from the New Yorker

  24. sam salvador

      who needs genius when you have milkshakes

  25. Cvan

      If it’s not the programs and the publishers, who do you think is responsible for both the homogeneity and the low bar of quality?

  26. Mike

      writers, for the most part. use your fucking head.