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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Yardley goes mental 

I've loved Jonathan Yardley's reviews for quite some time, but his latest offers up a whole host of cheap shots, er, biting gems. Taking on Rachel Pastan's THIS SIDE OF MARRIED, she--nor her background--doesn't exactly emerge unscathed:
"Rachel Pastan received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her short stories have been published in Mademoiselle, Threepenny Review and Arts and Letters. She has received the Arts and Letters Fiction Prize, the PEN Syndicated Fiction award and fellowships from the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Delaware Arts Council. In addition, Ms. Pastan has taught writing at Edgewood College, the Writers' Place in Madison, Wisconsin, and Swarthmore College."

All that for this? All those hours in class, critiquing and being critiqued; all those piddling prizes; all those teaching sinecures -- all that forced marching through literary apprenticeship as it's now defined in this country to produce a novel that has approximately as much heft as an episode of "Friends" or "Sex and the City"? Is that what they're teaching in the writing schools and lavishing awards upon -- Sitcom 101?

So you get the drift. He doesn't like it. Then there's the closing paragraph:
The whole enterprise, which means to be light, even frothy, never rises above the labored. If this is what the writing schools are handing out MFAs for these days -- and there's plenty of evidence elsewhere to suggest it is -- then the keys to the joint should just be turned over to "As the World Turns."

Now, now. ATWT isn't exactly the soap to slag, seeing as it's one of the better ones on the air right now (GH? Another story. DAYS OF OUR LIVES? Way too over the top. Etc., etc.,) with some degree of writing talent. For all I know, some of them might even have MFAs. But it does make me wonder who got the clever idea to match Yardley up with what essentially amounts to a chick-lit novel. Shouldn't anyone have twigged this wouldn't exactly be his cuppa?

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