in which the author discusses a book he’d read, if time permitted.

Title: MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction

Editor: Chad Harbach, n+1 editor and novelist

Notable contributors: Dead genius and writing professor David Foster Wallace; living genius and writing professor George Saunders

The Vibe: Professorial

What It Is: A book-length version of Harbach’s controversial n+1 essay, which compared the bleakness of attending a graduate writing program with the bleakness of making a go of it as a scribe on the isle of Manhattan or in one of New York’s other four boroughs

Quotable: “A writer can be ruined by school—-by a too-great desire to emulate her peers or please her teachers. She can be ruined by the publishing industry—-by trying to anticipate what the masses, or Manhattan editors, want to buy. She can be ruined by her poverty, or her parents. Or she can find her way.”

Sad Truth/Extended Use of “She” as a Gender-Neutral Pronoun: The writer, in whatever media or in whatever environment she works, is doomed to a life of, at best, semi-happiness and, at worst, depression and suicide. No: She may not bear more burdens than, say, a firewoman, a barista, a felon, or Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But, to serve her readers, she is saddled with the inescapable self-consciousness necessary to translate life as it is lived into a reasonable linguistic facsimile of life as it is lived. This process of translation is, in its execution, revision, and/or reception, necessarily and often distressingly fraught. So while asking “MFA or NYC?” may help the writer on her journey to misery, it’s about as relevant as asking “Coke or Pepsi?”

Disclaimer: In July, I will graduate from this MFA program.