Post #19: Best of Lists and Middle Class White Guys

Here’s a couple of articles I found thought provoking.  The first, by Roxane Gay, examines the “Best of…” lists that have become such a part of what establishes literary “excellence.”  Gay makes a compelling case regarding their legitimacy and usefulness.

http://therumpus.net/2011/12/toward-a-more-complete-measure-of-excellence/

The second is by Benjamin Hale, a writer who I was at Bread Loaf with, though never really got to know.  Mostly I saw him across the barn, or at the salad bar.  But his essay from Fortnight is edgy and though I have some issues (at times) with his tone in this piece, which tackles issues of authenticity and diversity, he’s a talented writer and shedding light on a question that I relate to whether I like it or not: do middle class white guys have anything to say in their writing?  A (mostly) closeted fear of mine has been that I’ve lived far too good and steady a life to offer anything significant to the literary sphere.   Perhaps this comes from actual insecurity about a serious issue, or perhaps it’s more a response to cultural mythology, much of which proves to be majorly suspect when you really start looking.

http://fortnightjournal.com/benjamin-hale/227-a-bourgeois-writer-in-america.html

Enough out of me.  Read.

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2 responses to “Post #19: Best of Lists and Middle Class White Guys

  1. About that second link — thanks for posting it. I admit i only skimmed it, but it reads to me like a horror story of the sort too cringe-inducing to read. I have a powerful aversion to the whole MFA thing, not because I think folks with the means to go to college post-grad are intrinsically uninteresting, but because of the kind of career navel-gazing that seems to be encouraged, even the reason-to-be of it all. Hate that. I don’t have any answers on what validates the writing impulse. I have the typical big/little ego issues endemic to most lonely miscreants driven to spend their time trying to tell strangers stories. Who the hell am I to expect any one to listen? And yet, I do want to tell them/you/everyone something. Best not to think about that too much. Practice the craft and submit work to see if you can get it published. And forget about whether you’re worthy or not. Who cares?

    • I’m with you on some of that, Ron. I’m a little skeptical of the MFA system myself. I love your point about it probably being best not to worry too much about it all, to trust the work, and the impulse to create it. Past the muck, that’s the most important thing, the thing that all writers are responding to.

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