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Stein-ed, Kendied, MFA'ed

Wednesday 5/8/24

I can say one positive thing about The Paris Review right now: At least probably no one is getting Lorin Stein-ed on a desk.


I don't go into bookstores because nearly every bookstore is the same and acts as what is tantamount to an enemy to reading good writing. The only bookstore I'll go into is a used bookstore. There's a new bookstore on Salem Street here in the North End, which is a strange place for a bookstore, as one knows if one has been to the North End or to Salem Street. It's near Bova's, the 24/7/365 bakery.


I was passing by this bookstore the other day and I stopped outside to look in. That's all you have to do. All it takes to see evidence of how the publishing system works, as we were discussing the other day. All of the bad books by connected people on the front tables. The rigged system. The five or six books by long dead authors that account for the rest of the sales not far off. No variety. No imagination. Everything looks the same, everything is the same. No value, nothing worth reading. No thought, no effort. Another indication of the mechanized system with the off button removed.


There were books arranged where a front window would have been, but it was a warm day, so the windows were pulled back. One of those books was Ibram X. Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist, for the kind of person--and think of how dumb and fake you have to be to be this kind of person--who walks by, espies that cover, and says, "I can use some help becoming an antiracist and an ally to those others," which is how such a person would think as they were simultaneously congratulating themselves on the person they are and brainstorming how they could brag about this to as many people as possible. Thank goodness for social media, right?


Kendi's life, his system of belief, his world view, his hubris, his stupidity, his con, his selfishness, his evil, his grift, his soullessness, can be summed up in the actual answer--for him--to the question of, "Kendi, how can I become an antiracist?"


That being, "You must give your money to a racist like me. But you'll still be a racist, which is why you have to keep giving me money."


Right? That is it, isn't it? That's him, yes? That's what it's about and all there is, correct? Or is it about how here's a brilliant thinker and writer? Anyone actually think that? You want to go and look at his writing and see if you think that?


People who teach in MFA programs are people who went to MFA programs. When we do a prose off in these pages, the person who is humiliated on the losing end is almost always someone who has an MFA. I believe every person to date has been. MFA stands for Master of Fine Arts. In this case, a master of fiction. These people have the title of master. Because they're so amazing at writing fiction.


That is hilarious, right? Fiction masters. Yes. That's definitely what those people are.


Look at this fiction master in New England Review, which itself is produced in an MFA program and edited by our friend, Carolyn Kuebler, who has an MFA, and who is about to have another bad day in these pages with her own writing on the same day her first book comes out.


What masters.


The defenders of the MFA system--which itself is responsible for all "literary fiction" in publishing--always say the same thing: An MFA gives you time to write. They need people to go to the programs because there's no other way for them to get paid. If you had to be good at writing and possess an imagination and write works that people could care about, there would be no one to stock the programs.


Then these people pay this money--or, rather, their parents do--and they come out of the program and go right back into it to teach in the program. It's constant indoctrination and reinforcement of the worst kind of writing there is and an inculcation center for a certain kind of entitled, untalented, petty, insecure person, and an encouraged maxing out on the clannishness that such a person will ultimately become all about if facilitated and enabled in doing so.


This argument for time is as hilarious as the claim of, "I'm a master of fiction!"


If you want to get something done, you'll do it. If it matters enough to you. Time won't be a factor.


The claim is bullshit. It's just something these people say because their words are not sincere. They don't do sincerity in life. They don't do it in their writing, their interactions. They can't even do it with themselves.


You know what you could do if you wanted time to write?


You could wake up.


Problem solved. Open your eyes and get up.


What time do you think most people get up? Seven?


You could wake up at four and write for three hours, and then do what you were going to do. Because what? You're writing three hours a day at your MFA program? No you're not. That's a lie.


You're much more likely to be bullshitting and learning and doing nothing of actual value on daddy's dime.


If you go to bed at ten, you slept for six hours. How many do you need? Go to bed at nine, and you got seven.


You need eight, huh? Has to be eight? Not going to cleave off an hour or two? A few times a week? Twice a week? Writing isn't worth that much to you?


Of course it isn't. Because you're not a writer. You're not doing this to create works of value to enhance the lives of others, which is why an actual writer writes. There can be more to it. That writer can want to make a billion dollars. That's fine.


But nothing is more important to a writer than readers. I don't mean in a cheap way. I don't mean, "Well, without readers, I don't have a brand, and without a brand, I don't get clicks."


Nothing is more important than that reader and the experience the reader may have because of the work. That is what everything comes back to, because it is where everything starts.


Everything I do in this life--even every stair I touch; what I endure, create, what I am fighting through, this war I am in, the holding on, the keeping going, the new work, the next work, it is all for one single thing: readers. To a reader I give my heart, my soul, my life. The people of this system are trying to keep me from readers. But we will all meet in the end. And I don't mean when I'm gone. And I will be able to give all that I have. Which is even more than what I am, because of what it is. What that work is.


You could not go to brunch with your Brooklyn hipster friends and write instead. You could not go to the bar and stay there until two in the morning. You could not go shopping with the trust fund money, you could not play that video game for yet another hour. You don't have to gossip, bullshit, cosplay, go to another shitty reading by another shitty writer. Etc.


There is so much time in a day. This journal proves that. How does this man do so much?


He tries. He cares. He doesn't stop. He doesn't sit around. He acts on that which is important to him which is important in and of itself.


See the key there? It's that last bit. Doing something so that you can call yourself something with no burden of proof whatsoever--just delusion and a desperate need for an identity, however false--is not important in and of itself.


If you require anything more than not being dead to write and to write what you're going to write, then you are not a writer.


I could be standing on a burning twig in the river Styx as the universe, the heavens, and the underworld exploded, and I'd still be writing.





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