Vicarious MFA: 3 classes & assignments.
School is in session! I got an email saying to go get “The Next American Essay” edited by John D’Agata and read a bunch of essays in it by Feb 2, when the Lethem masterclass starts. Hoorah. First classes for The First Book, Inheritance and Non/Fiction are after the jump….
The First Book: This class is being led by an FSG editor & author named Paul Elie, who seems so far to be a pretty smart guy. He once helped a very old Grace Paley ascend a set of stairs. He also wrote a book called “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” which is a borrowed title to a Flannery O’Connor story.
Writing your first book is both a literary problem and an existential problem.
Map of Misreading and The Anxiety of Influence, two books by Harold Bloom. The best works of art are “strong misreadings” of other works of art.
The act of creation is a high drama! Your influences are not always where you think they are!
Mystery of Manners by Flannery O’Connor
Assignment: Read The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. (I’m almost done with it. One sentence appraisal: Percy’s writing is similar to Yates, but more depressing and more entertaining because his characters are more believable.)
Inheritance: This is a graduate class in the Psychology Department and it seems to be insanely complicated. I understand that I might only understand 10% of what they are talking about. The Professor is Frances Champagne. What a name!
Some mechanisms of Inheritance are DNA, social habits, learned behaviors, language, etc.
Theories of Inheritance come from ideas of Evolution.
Jean-Baptiste Lamark 1744-1829: Early scientist interested in evolution. Proponent of the idea that our DNA changes based on environmental conditions, ie, Giraffes’ necks have grown longer over time because their food source grows high up.
August Weisman 1834-1914, Totally not digging Lamark’s idea about the giraffes. Thought that all inherited traits were transmitted via reproductive organs, which did not respond to enviromental factors. The Weisman barrier.
Assignment: Evolution in Four Dimensions by Eva Jablonka and Marion J Lamb. First 2 chapters.
Non/Fiction: Taught by the lovely Amy Benson, this class is about the blurring of the line between Fiction and Nonfiction and poetry.
First of all, go to Catherine Chalmers’s website and click “Play Safari Video” which is right under the picture of the snake.
Awesome. Great. Didn’t you love the part with the blue frogs? I loved that part, too.
Pamela & Shamela
Love Letters between a Noble-man and His Sister
What are the expectations of literature of our cultural moment and how can we bend them to our advantage?
Assignment: “Shakers” by Daniel Orozco, “Werner” by Jo Ann Beard, “Essay on Where It’s From” by John D’Agata, and an excerpts from Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn and The Devil and the White City by Erik Larson