I should add to that title: Who were never any good anyway, but who've been tongued and tongued for decades by the people of the publishing system.
There are many we can and will talk about--T.C Boyle, George Saunders, Ann Beattie--but we'll start with Oates, and let us also travel to Idaho, where I have various people who read these pages obsessively at the MFA program at the University of Idaho, like Mitch Wieland, a system enabler and a bad writer himself, who is all about doing what he can--albeit at the lowest level--to keep a corrupt system running as suits his limited purpose, and nonexistent talent, in life.
For Mitch Wieland is someone who wants to rip people off, take money from families, create student debt, or just filch from the naive and well-heeled, so that he can lie to people, help make them worse writers, all while lip-servicing the likes of a writer who never had any ability in Joyce Carol Oates, but who types many things, and is immediately--no matter how bad those things are--hooked up by the likes of The New Yorker, the VQR, Harper's. Anywhere she wishes. Because the people in this industry pretend that her scribbles have substance, or that anyone truly wants them. And no one, of course, does. Because you couldn't. But on and on and on it has gone for decades. And now, eh. No one wants to say anything. So, yeah, whatever, slap it in, JCO typed something again!
And this empress who never wore a stitch of clothing--metaphorically speaking--or had a single person in this industry of cowards with the balls to say, "Huh, she seems kind of naked down there in the street, driving by on the chariot, with everyone saying she's super fashionable and has those amazing clothes"--will also fill up everything else she can with her scribbles. Any lit mag she can think of. Like Wieland's Idaho Review, which exists to service the likes of a Joyce Carol Oates and scam young people. Then, after said servicing, a rip-off artist like Wieland touts JCO having appeared in his journal's annual issue. They don't pay. They make writers pay them to have their work read, when they're only putting in people like JCO anyway, who of course are just going straight in, sight unseen, with their awful writing. That is another scam, charging people $3 to submit a work. That's how they make money. Because no one buys the magazine with the writing that no one wants to read. Get it? But Wieland can try and entice future MFA students--and no one who is any good at writing would enter an MFA program; you think Shakespeare and Dickens would have signed up?; that's hilarious--to pay an obscene amount of money to join that program, so that they might someday be a future JCO.
And people will do this. Because what are you going to do? Have talent? Work hard? Find your own way? Gather--GASP!--some real world experience? Hell no! You're going to ask mommy and daddy to pay for a couple more years of school so that, ironically, you can become a worse writer. And you will post about your MFA program on Facebook, and 452 people who also don't have talent will say things like "BRAVA," because none of it is real. The people are not real. The programs are not in place to help foster the making of real writing for real reading in real life for real humans with real utility and real purpose. This is where imagination goes to die. And you only learn what it is like to be a system person. That is really all that is taught in every single MFA program.
I like doing these entries because they're so easy for me. By that I mean, I don't have to make some remarkable case. I simply have to say a few truths, and then I give you an example of the writer's work. That's fun. It's not subjective. There is no argument one can make--but I'd love to see someone try, because it'd make me laugh--that what I am about show you isn't embarrassingly bad. Inept. The work of someone with no ability. Their work--which can otherwise achieve nothing on its own powers--does all the work in this case of showing you, third party sane person, how twisted this system is. How bad, simply, this person is at writing.
And yet, there is no award, no placement in any venue, that will not be lobbed at this person's feet. And there is not a single damn person in the entire industry, in the entire world, who can say, "Well, Colin, this is good because it's doing this and that, and this other specific thing, and look at what happens here in this paragraph." There isn't a single person alive who can make any kind of a case that this is good writing. You'll go to read it, if you're not in publishing, after this build-up, and maybe you'll think, "hmmm, well, it can't be that bad, surely he's exaggerating"--though I never do--but you will click on the link that is coming and you will realize that, if anything, I undersold how terrible this writing is.
Defend yourself, Mitch Wieland. What do you have to say, you fraud? You shyster. You bigot. Because you are only hooking up your kind of people. That's a bigot. And a dumb and obvious bigot.
What do you say? Because you are looking right at these pages, sir. What do you say? I'm going to start going through everyone you put in there, and I'm going to show thousands and thousands of people--far more people every day on here, than who will read that journal in decades--and reveal why you put them in there. You like that Boise?
And to those of you out there who want to write, I have something to say to you. To those who honestly care about writing. Who have a passion for writing. Who think you're good at it, who think you can get better at it: Stay the hell away from these programs. They are going to make you worse. They will make you a worse writer and a worse human. They are filled with bad, petty, broken people who only want to see people like themselves get anywhere, and who hate creativity, who hate hard work, who hate productivity, who want everything written as they write, which is to say, as a piece of narcissistic, navel-gazing drone work, which is almost always about them, and their little worlds, these sad fiefdoms, because they can't think up a single thing, can't invent, they can't go beyond their sheltered, frightened existences. Most of them think alike, write the same way, have the same brokenness. I know solid people and have worked with solid people and know some outside of work who have a background in this system. I'm not saying everyone is some monster. I am saying that monsters prevail thematically here, and the worst writing there is. Writing that makes people anti-readers.
I feel bad for the exceptions who think they're honestly doing what is best for their work, but you are not. Don't go. Or leave before it is too late. If you're any good, you'll find everything you need in yourself. In your effort. In you. In your experiences. Go out and live. Deeply, hard. Read things that they'd never have you read. Watch things no one watches because the world is full of people all doing the same basic, lazy things. Listen to music you never listened to. Find a forest and learn everything about it. Lay in bed and think for hours and hours about stories you can make in your head. Find walls, find where your walls are, and destroy them. Destroy comfort zones until you reach a place where everything is a zone of newness, and you are not scared of it, and you can create from and within it. Then find the next zone of newness, and the next, and the next. Don't get better every day--get better every hour, every minute, every second, and then learn how to make the parts of a second a world in which you can exist and create many things at once. Shoot for that.
And you know what? It's okay not to be good enough. Most people just do not have the ability, and even if you have ability, you need a purpose and a drive and a will and a courage and belief in yourself that few people in this world do. The MFA system wants to exploit these people and take their money, because that's who the system preys upon in one sense, and it prays upon the world in another, by removing anyone's desire to read. That is how it is funded. It's not funded because there's so much great work that the world has to have. There is no great work coming out of these programs. These programs, like the publishing system, are killing off reading. Killing off good writing, because they quash creativity. They shame it, because they fear it. And they envy it. And as the programs and publishing kill off reading, they hurt this world immeasurably. They help fuel the devolution of humanity, society, culture. We need amazing writers more than ever. We need brave souls who can communicate, who know, who can invent, for the purpose of connecting and illuminating. The world has never needed anything like it needs someone, and people, like that right now. And the MFA system, and the publishing system, are making sure there are less and less of those people than at any time in the history of the written word. And if you don't have the talent, don't lie to yourself. You already have people in your life lying to you about your work. Wealthy family members are often blowing smoke up your ass because they want to be able to think of you a certain way, as a little trophy, not because you are a certain way. Or they want you to be what they are, or what they thought they should be. And almost every other writer you know, if not every writer, is saying what they say to you so that you'll say it to them. You have other things you can do, other ways that you can contribute, and you may discover that you have things that make you special in ways that no one else is. Find those things. Whatever they may be.
But you are not going to find jack shit of value in these programs, where the likes of a Mitch Wieland rules, and it's never really about you, and it's sure as hell not about writing well.
Speaking of which: This is a 3000 word story that Wieland published by Joyce Carol Oates called, "Welcome to Friendly Skies." As I said, I don't have to do any of the work. The complete absence of quality in the writer's work does that for me. I merely need to show it to you. So here you go.