In the LA Building, I had exchanges like this everyday:
“Hey, Aimee Bender is in Tin House!”
“Awesome! I’ll check that out. Gotta run. Speaking of 'devolution' , it's time to teach Comp.”
Don’t try this in public.
Perhaps the greatest trauma of post MFA life is having to (re)realize that writers you love and strive to emulate, whose books you have gently caressed in the night are, in a general public sense, nobodies.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to form a writer’s group and one woman, a potential member, said she didn’t know how to describe her fiction. I prodded her a bit and determined she is probably writing Magic Realism.
“You should read Aimee Bender!” I was pretty excited about my suggestion. The woman nodded absently and the conversation drifted. But no way was I giving up on this. I loved Aimee Bender before I went to Montana. Then I had the chance to work with her and wound up loving her more; I followed her around like an imprinted duckling. I’m going to apply to the USC PhD, a complete long shot and probable waste of cash, because she is on the faculty.
“No really,” I said. “You should read Aimee Bender.”
I realized what I expected was for this woman to leap up, grab a pen, and feverishly tattoo my suggestion on her face.
Or at least act like she might check it out.
Nothing highlights the brutal chasm between the MFA bubble and the outside world like teaching Comp. Especially when you have no one to clutch in the hallway. Right now I’m teaching online, so I’m in it alone. One exercise my students have is they write a brief essay about writers with whom they have or have not “experienced rapport.”
Observation: Over half of my students mentioned Stephen King. I’m not here to debate the literary merits of King, at least, not at this moment. As for my students, most felt a “rapport” while a few didn’t, calling King “stuck up and facituss.” Either way, they have read him. This coming from a population who has no qualms telling their instructor they hate to read.