A response to a comment from Chad (to my post about not reading reviews):
How do critical responses to your articles come into play? I’m mostly just curious about whether or not you’ve read Mark McGurl’s response to “Get a Real Degree” in the LA Review of Books.
Dear Chad! You’re right – it’s a very similar situation. On the one hand, it seems solipsistic to be sitting at a desk writing things and ignoring the responses… especially when what you’re writing is criticism… and especially when that criticism is couched as some kind of polemical gauntlet, e.g. by means of a title like “Get a Real Degree” (which I did not come up with myself).
On the other hand… these dialogues invariably involve such a time-lag! Someone writes a book; you take the time to read it and articulate what you think the deal is; the writer takes the time to read your opinion and articulate what he thinks the deal is, and by then years have passed. (I wrote the LRB piece in 2009, six months before it was published.) It’s a real investment to get back into the state of mind you were in before. You lose time and tranquility.
Is it selfish of me to value my time and tranquility over the exigencies of public debate regarding American creative writing programs? I don’t know. (For real, I don’t know.) All I can say is that right now I’m getting started on a new project, totally unrelated to creative writing programs, and full of totally new challenges, and it needs all my energy. There’s just one of me, and, if I don’t keep the momentum going, who is going to do it for me? (Pushkin? My intern?) For the time being, that means no adrenalinizing detours down memory lane. Although there is no doubt in my mind that McGurl’s response is super-smart and thought-provoking (as was his book), and although I fully intend to read and think about it when my own work permits, now is not that time.
As always, a big thanks to everyone who doesn’t think that whatever I just said makes me some kind of jerk. (Am thinking of appending this disclaimer to everything I write.)