Thursday, December 11, 2008

Post MFA Recovery

The rule is that if I’m not creative writing I don’t get to blog. After much huffing and puffing I was able to expel a breech story this week. My reward is public blathering. As the guitarist from my band says, “I’ve suffered for my art. Now it’s your turn.”

Topic: Post MFA I’ve had problems finishing a book (as in reading one, never mind writing one). I blame the Rushdie lit seminar. One novel a week plus critical essays snapped a mind already worn fragile by plotless New Yorker stories. I remember experiencing the same reading burnout after undergrad. That summer I spent hours staring out the back window at a huge oak tree. The leaves turned brown, fell. A few months later the branches dripped cold rain. Then they were coated in ice. I wasn’t able to finish a book until the return of spring allergies. It took Stephen King to get me reading again. After four years of Plato, Hume and Wittgenstein I was in desperate need of a resolved plot.

This go round it’s only December and here I am reading already. For others in Recovery I say forget the short stories and go with the New Yorker staff writers. Good old nonfiction has come to my rescue in the form of Malcolm Gladwell. I read Outliers in a day. Devouring a book felt like an overdue chiropractic adjustment. Wasn’t that how I got into this mess in first place? Not because I had to force myself to read and write, but because I loved it?

I admit Outliers, while a great read, has some of the same problems King novels do. In the interest of concrete developments and meaty handholds, subtlety is lost. For now I’ll take story over subtlety, but I predict after a while I’ll swing the other way again. After all, it wasn’t that I didn’t love my MFA reading list, I burned out on it. I might even be ready for Alice Munro soon.

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