Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Writer's Motivation?

The chief motivation for System writers ostensibly remains greed: career and money.

The irony is that all follow the standard literary path, which takes them in the opposite direction of their goal. They'll pay $50,000 or more to accept extremely low odds of making it as a writer; to become one of 40,000+ similarly labelled with said degree. I suspect the badge itself-- "MFA"-- for most of this number is the real motivation. This certifies the person as a "writer" and allows him or her a kind of respectable, if useless, attainment.

For others, undergrounders particularly, the writing itself is the goal: the expression and construction of authentic art.

The ULA campaign offers an added bonus to the independently-minded writer-- the opportunity to make literary history, as we've done with our protests, our actions, our never before seen in-your-face excitement. (The status quo is reduced to presenting weak substitutes like the Dishwasher guy.)

Most non-underground writers are embedded in the literary past. Embedded-- incapable of breaking out of their artistic assumptions and prejudices. Even when they write about literary rebels of the past, it's in a thoroughly dry, academic way, their ANALysis coming through the prism of their politically-correct institutional brainwashing.

The Underground Literary Alliance offers literature as an adventure and a challenge. With us, the writer isn't one of 40,000+ trained and certified automatons, but a rebel engaged in the battle of ideas. We're guerrillas and prophets, a band of upstarts, vanguard of literary change.

Our fearlessness is our greatest strength. There is nothing appealing about an endless parade of artistic apparatchiks. Someday this nation's literature may devolve into an Age of Sheep. We're here to say: That time has not yet arrived! Exciting days remain.

1 comment:

Jeff Potter (of OutYourBackdoor.com) said...

Let's give the kids the benefit of the doubt: Maybe they go into an MFA program with a vision, a kind of story they want to tell, and they think they'll get help in learning how to tell it right. They think they're paying for help, getting help from folks who've been there, who know the score, who can spot bad mistakes and give amazing advice for fixing it. And likely they also think the MFA degree would be handy for getting a literary teaching job to help them pay the bills while they get ready to launch their lit-career. Maybe some just want to teach.

I know a couple kids who got English degrees (dunno if they went on to MFAs) because they sort of wanted to teach and they liked certain kinds of books---neither feller was the sort who was into looking much at life per se. One guy preferred Hawthorne right out of high school! Had no interest in contemporary lit, didn't even know about it. But undergrads can be forgiven much. Altho their instincts sometimes seem off from the start. I know a kid right now who wants to be a teacher because he'd get the summers off...hardee har! What a motive!

But what do MFAers discover? What anyone who hires a pro discovers...if you want So-and-so's vision that's what you get! YOU DO NOT GET YOURS!

I think of how many new small presses view hiring a pro graphic designer. They often think they'll save the designer some work (and themselves some $) by getting a cover "nearly done" for the designer. Actually, when you hire Joe to design a cover you don't get your idea of a cover and you don't even get a cover that's necessarily tailored to your market, YOU GET THE KIND OF COVER THAT JOE MAKES.

Some MFA students are perhaps savvy enough to know that when they go study under a certain prof or a school with a certain reputation that they are agreeing to WRITE LIKE THAT PROF and to tailor their work to fit in with that school.

At any rate, it seems like a reality that what happens at an MFA program isn't that you learn how to tell your story in your way at the highest quality level. What happens is that you agree to write like other people and to do what they say.

Maybe a lot of programs aren't so thorough---perhaps a big univ just processes kids and their cash and that's that. But I don't think so. Even in a big, faceless program the way to an MFA or PhD is to give the bosses what they want the way they like it. They know what they like already! They can judge a PhD! They do it all the time.

Or am I wrong? Do they really want fresh voices and want surprises in the theses?

(I notice at our own huge univ nearby, Michigan State U, that the poets all came out reading like Diane Wakowski who I think would jetset into town to be a prof. This was during her prime---I'm not sure if she puts out the energy to get kids to conform to her anymore or if she even teaches at MSU anymore. I never saw her around town. Hugh Fox is also an MSU prof, or was---and he's also a longtimer in the underground/radical/small-press scene. Dang, I have to go look him up! I saw him around town quite often back in the day. Does bell hooks actually live in Ann Arbor? How do celeb profs usually do things? I knew a high-end prof who wasn't even a celeb who lived in Boston and taught at Northwestern in Chicago... Whew!)