Monday, February 17, 2014

Iowa Writers' Workshop

"How Iowa Flattened Literature" has been around the interwebs recently, about the CIA and the workshop, and in fine blogging fashion, I've only skimmed parts of it so far. Nevertheless here are more than ten things, mainly books and writers, I think of when free-associating about the Iowa Writers' Workshop:

1) The Stone Reader a documentary about a forgotten Iowa writer that the director determines to find

2) The Same River Twice by Chris Offutt

3) After the Workshop by John McNally

4) Fred Exley at Iowa in Pages from a Cold Island

5) drinking stories about Raymond Carver and John Cheever at Iowa

6) stories I've assigned by Bharati Mukherjee, Nam Le, and Sana Krasikov

7) John Gardner and T.C. Boyle, wildly successful, prolific novelists with PhDs from Iowa (if I'm not mistaken, Gardner was one of America's first PhDs in creative writing although this is perplexing as I've always been under the impression Iowa does not offer such a degree)

8) John Irving, one of my father's favorites

9) Kurt Vonnegut, Ralph Ellison, Philip Roth, Richard Yates and other literary greats who passed through Iowa

10) my rejection in '93 or '94; in retrospect, I'm sure it was a weak application (no publications, undergrad workshops, or thorough references, and a hurried seven semesters of college; my creative writing sample was likely somewhat experimental and weird)

11) need to get to work but plan to add hyperlinks and Jesus' Son, Joy Williams, and others

12) shouldn't forget Alexander Chee

13) Henry Israeli, Philly poet and publisher of Saturnalia Press

14) Jayne Anne Phillips, kind enough to answer my questions about her "Home"

15) for posterity's sake, of course, it's worth noting that none of the writers listed above are at my level, so to speak, and particularly not in the categories of sloth, fatigue, generalized failure, and penchant for procrastination (and for all their sakes, I hope they are also weaker than me in neuroses, doubt, angst, and occasional chest pain). ps--and it goes without writing, until I do, that I'm also better at my patented process for blog of editing, publishing, and then editing again. and again. . .

*#12 once included Steve Almond, but in a local library on 6/26/14, while reading from one of his nonfiction titles, I chanced upon his insistence that he attended the MFA at UNC-Greensboro. . . no doubt, another reason Almond has felt awkward and out of place with all the other nuts.


riggsda said...

Alex, I just want to put in my 2 bucks (inflation) for my friend and world grand master of science fiction, Joe Haldeman.

Joe was drafted and sent to Vietnam in 1968, was wounded and returned to the U.S., where he published a novel called _War Year_. On the basis of this publication, he was admitted to Iowa for the writers' workshop, where he wrote his master's thesis, a novel called _The Forever War_ (science fiction, but very obviously a result and processing of his Viet nam experience), which won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.

He has since been one of science fiction's most prolific and talented writers (now I sound like press copy or a blurb) who has written great short stories, novellas, and novels for the past 40 years.

Furthermore, he has been teaching creative writing (of SF) for years at M.I.T. in the fall semesters; without the MFA from Iowa, this would not be available to him.

I particularly recommend his novella _The Hemingway Hoax_, which is his homage to Hemingway, and his short stories "Seven against the Stars" (?) and "More than the Sum of His Parts."

Don Riggs

riggsda said...
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