You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2011.
Just in case you missed it, here’s what happened on here in September:
-I took a few weeks off from working on the novel–using the time to clean up a few new short stories for submission–but am now reading and editing my first complete draft. It’s a lot of fun to read so far, seeing how things come together, and where they don’t.
-The Uninitiated released its comprehensive and authoritative rankings of MFA and PhD programs in creative writing. The University of Texas at Austin took the top spot.
-My review of Rahul Mehta’s Quarantine was accepted for publication by The Iowa Review Online, and will appear shortly in the month of October.
-My review of David Philip Mullins’ Greetings from Below—previously accepted for publication by Prairie Schooner—has been scheduled to run in the Spring 2012.
Dispatch from The Hyphenates of Jackson County
“The noise was so frightening that Jacob couldn’t stand still. He had to move his feet, around in the crowd, or he felt like someone was going to take a shot at him. A block over there was a nervous cop who sprayed shotgun fire into the air whenever someone approached the car he guarded. The cascading noise of tumbling glass was punctuated by the fraught screams of woman in jeopardy. Or maybe that wasn’t it at all, what Jacob thought he heard. Maybe that was the sound of a woman’s prurient cheer as government windows were smashed to shards. There was the roar of voices, people fighting and being hurt. The flash of small arms erupting. The police sirens, their barking orders. The steam valve had been blown clean off and Jacob couldn’t stay where he was. He had to run into it, into the noise and fighting. He had to see everything, to document it in his mind. Speeding cars rushed into the crowds. Young men jumped on the sideboards of cars to swing around to where the action was. There were cars with Sicilians, Lithuanians, Greeks, Serbians. Once word of the melee spread, anyone who wanted to take a swing at a cop made a bee-line to Scandal Flats. A gang hijacked a streetcar and plowed into the mess, clanging the bell to announce their audacity. Teenage boys and musky husbands rushed out of houses with whatever hammer or club or bat they could lay hands on, and then hopped in a taxi to get there fast. A mechanical rumble filled the atmosphere. Roadsters and jalopies, homemade in Little Italy garages, swung recklessly around the blocks. They swerved to miss people and each other. Jacob couldn’t always see the cars but he could hear their pop-pop motors hammering at full throttle a block away, spreading echoes between buildings, echoes that bounced back from the high-rises of downtown. Trucks, commissioned or otherwise, hopped hot over the pavement to load up with furniture or produce or women’s clothes. Taxis slumped cockeyed and labored up the hills, packed full inside, passengers on the footboards.
“People shouted out to groups of strangers any news they heard. There was lots of talk in the mob about the smutty details of the rape—conjecture about Will Brown’s body in relation to the girl’s. They made him out to be huge, a towering man, arms like a gorilla’s, legs like a mule’s. They talked about Agnes Loebeck as if she was a little girl, pious and pure, like she only ever wore little white Sunday dresses, like she picked berries in a pristine field, like she’d never even heard of anything like a dick before.”
Personal Rejection Notes, Requests for More, and Other Nice Versions of No Thanks
Bomb for “Shame Cycle.”
Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen. Eh.
My Antonia by Willa Cather. I really enjoyed this book, and can see why it’s often noted as Cather’s finest. I was surprised at how Modernist this novel is, it’s really quite innovative, as I’d always thought it was more of a Victorian, continental-style book for young women than anything. I stand corrected. A masterful work.
Also, if you haven’t heard this NPR piece by Bradford Morrow on My Antonia, you should really check it out. Here’s part of what Morrow has to say:
What’s interesting about My Antonia is how it manages to function as a perfectly inviting story for young readers, and how an adult willing to revisit it with a more developed critical eye can appreciate it for the subtly sophisticated narrative it truly is. In this regard, it’s not unlike a wildly different book, Alice in Wonderland. Great fun for kids, psychologically captivating for grownups.
Shadow Traffic by Richard Burgin.
Bohemian Girl by Terese Svoboda.
Because no one asked me to, I devised a system to rank creative writing graduate programs in the U.S. in order to provide an alternative to the controversial rankings published by Poets & Writers. (It’s not too late to join in the fun is it?)
The ranking system consists of several weighted categories. These include:
-Points for each member of faculty who signed the complaint letter that disputed the methodology of the Poets & Writers rankings. Having a faculty that is engaged–as has a little spunk–is vital to success in any program.
-Deductions for every time I saw someone criticize the rankings on social media because their school was ranked too low.
-Deduction for each school that Seth Abramson has attended. This one is just for fun. Seth’s work–along with the Creative Writing MFA Blog and the Creative Writing MFA Handbook–has moved the debate on creating transparency in the MFA application process, and has been great. The P&W rankings are really the least of what he and the MFA Handbook have accomplished.
-I reversed the Cost of Living rankings. If a city is more expensive, it must be better! A low cost of living is fine, but you also have to live there for 2-6 years. Is it really better to rank Syracuse, NY as more desirable than New York, NY? Or Spokane as more desirable than Seattle? I don’t think so.
-Added bonus for great college football tradition, minor and major league baseball, and for any school I attended, or that accepted me at some point. (My ranking is very open about its inherent bias.)
-Schools received a bonus if I have good friends who live in their city. Conversely, if my wife would never move to where a school is, points were deducted.
-Finally, I factored in popularity and prestige, using the P&W rankings. Here’s my thinking. Everyone wants to be liked and respected, right? Also, you don’t want people making sour faces at AWP when you tell them what program you’re in. It’s a little thing, but one that still counts.
Here are some other things to remember. First, I only did one list for MFA and PhD programs, and left low-residency programs out altogether. There’s a significant amount of farce in any ranking system, so deal with it. Second, what’s good for me may not be good for you. I’m sorry if you don’t like minor league baseball. But, to me, its presence is a critical part of any graduate program.
And the winners are…
1 University of Texas-Austin (64.3 points, #8 in the P&W MFA rankings)
2 University of Washington (63.7, 64)
3 Boston University (62.5, 50)
4 Portland State University (60.8, 68)
5 The New School (58.4, 42)
6 Emerson College (56.3, 63)
7 New York University (56, 16)
8 University of Oregon (54, 11)
9 Columbia University (52.9, 47)
10 Brown University (52.2, 4)
11 University of California-Irvine (51.1, 15)
12 Hunter College (49.8, 28)
13 University of Southern California (49.5, 6 in PhD)
14 Ohio State University (46.8, 33)
15 University of Nebraska-Lincoln (46, 10 in PhD)
16 University of California-San Diego (44.5, 31)
17 Arizona State University (43, 21)
18 University of Houston (40.7, 19 in MFA/4 in PhD)
19 University of Utah (40.5, 4 in PhD)
20 University of Iowa (40, 1)
21 Florida State University (39, 69 in MFA/2 in PhD)
22 University of Alabama (38.3, 18)
23 University of Idaho (37.9, 71)
24 George Mason University (37.4, 52)
25 University of Miami (37, 56)
You know, it’s not actually too bad of a list, for people who are biased against massive northern rust belt schools, of course. All of the listed schools above should expect to see a healthy boost to their application numbers this year. Feel free to thank me later.
A Max Fleischer cartoon, 1930.
Some good news to report this morning, as my review of Rahul Mehta’s debut short story collection, Quarantine, has been accepted for publication on The Iowa Review Online! The review should run early in October. I’ll be sure to post a link at that time, certainly.
This is my first time working with The Iowa Review, and I’m very excited to be associated with another high-quality journal. This also marks my tenth review to be accepted for publication! I’m not really sure how I’ve written that many, but I’m proud to hit a benchmark of sorts. Book reviewing wasn’t something I thought I’d ever enjoy doing, but the pleasures of the form have surprised me. It’s actually pretty fun, figuring out what makes a book good and getting to tell people about it. What’s not to like?
I’ll keep this short, as it’s late and the big news about finishing the roughest draft of my novel was already covered in a post a couple weeks ago.
-Some good news came along–announced in September, technically–as I’ve been awarded a scholarship to attend the 2012 Key West Literary Seminar and will participate in a workshop with the legendary Robert Stone.
-I announced in the same post that “These Things That Save Us” will appear in the premier issue of Conversations Across Borders.
Dispatch from The Hyphenates of Jackson County
“Lots of doughboys were in the crowd. This wasn’t all that surprising, as there were two forts nearby—Fort Crook and Fort Omaha. Jacob saw them around a lot then, in the year after the armistice—the doughboys come home, displaced from their jobs. There were plenty along the streets of the River Ward, husky kids still in uniform, their long green socks and puffy breeches, like football players lost from afield. An awful lot of them had what was called war neurosis. Some twitched, or struggled to keep their eyes open. Some had to constantly skim the palms of their hands over their faces and fuzzy, shaved skulls, like a cat preening itself. So many shuffled along in a painful, halting gait, or like they were slipping on ice, their whole bodies in spastic shaking. You didn’t want to think about what those suffering doughboys had seen or heard over there to make them out this way. The constant bombardments, the nerve gas, horses disemboweled on barbed wire barricades, the still-moving charred grist of a man caught by a flame thrower. There were doughboys who’d been buried alive when the man next to them stepped on a landmine, or in mortar fire, trapped when the four tons of earth thrown up in the explosion landed. There were the flyboys, crazy-eyed, sun-dazed, whose hands curled and shook, forever gripped on the timorous controls of their bi-plane’s yoke and machine gun trigger.”
Personal Rejection Notes, Requests for More, and Other Nice Versions of No Thanks
Electric Literature for “Shame Cycle.”
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter. Often touted in recent publications as having the sexiest depictions of sex of any novel. It’s sexy, but not very erotic, if that makes sense. A good novel, though.
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. A classic that I love to reread. The stories “Godliness,” “The Strength of God,” and “Death” just really can’t be beat. Simply amazing work from who is really the father of the American short form.
My Antonia by Willa Cather.
Bohemian Girl by Terese Svboda.
Some excellent news to announce today!
First, my short story “These Things That Save Us” has been chosen to help launch the debut issue of Conversations Across Borders, an online journal that will feature literary writing and journalism from around the globe. The first issue will be available early in October, and will also feature work by Ilya Kaminsky (!), Sam Green, and Gary Lemons, among others. I’ll be sure to share some links and more information about CAB as it becomes more pertinent. From everything I’ve heard, it should be a pretty cool endeavor, and I’m excited to be in on the ground floor, so to speak.
Second, I’ve received a partial scholarship to attend the Key West Literary Seminar in January, 2012, and will be part of a workshop led by Robert Stone the following week! How awesome is that? I attended KWLS two years ago and am pretty amped up to be returning. (And I was scheduled to go three years ago to participate in a Robert Stone workshop, but had to cancel once we learned that Maddie’s due date was the same week. Looks like I’ll be getting a second chance at the workshop after all.) The theme of the seminar is, Yet Another World – Literature of the Future, and features Margaret Atwood, Jennifer Egan, Rivka Galchen, Jonathan Lethem, George Saunders, Joyce Carol Oates, Gary Shteyngart, and Colson Whitehead, among many others. They always have such a great lineup; this upcoming year’s is especially compelling. In addition to the literary program, I also get to spend a week on a tropical island during the heart of winter, which isn’t too shabby.
I’m also still up for a “named” scholarship, which would cover all expenses, including travel and a stipend.It would be nice to have everything paid for, of course, but I’m thrilled to have it all confirmed now, at least, with a large portion of it paid for by KWLS. I’m very lucky.
(Oh, and I apologize to anyone who might have been expecting ecclesiastically-themed content after looking at the post title. I have no updates on Holy Week at this time.)