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Posts Tagged ‘excuses’


Friday, April 13th, 2012

Loyal readers! I have been greatly moved by the outpourings of support for my blog, and of execration for Twitter. I feel like a tiny bit like Arthur Conan Doyle after he killed off Sherlock Holmes.

“I have been much blamed for doing [Holmes] to death,” Conan Doyle said… “but I hold that it was not murder, but justifiable homicide in self-defense, since, if I had not killed him, he would certainly have killed me.”




Thursday, May 12th, 2011

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).1

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.)


  1. For the record, in my LRB piece, I was trying to respond to the picture of the MFA program—the particular authors it produced, during a particular time period—that McGurl presented in his book. I was not trying to come up with any final or essential characterization of MFA programs, which are not only extremely numerous, but are also I believe getting more (pedagogically, aesthetically, ideologically) diverse every year.


Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Dear readers!  I am still greatly chagrined about having to miss not only the Chicago reading but also the visit to Redlands University, where I had been enormously looking forward to meeting Alisa Slaughter, Joy Manesiotis (author of a very beautiful and apropos poem about lamenting women), and their students, whom I thank for their interest in The Possessed, and whom I very much hope to meet at some point in the future.

In the meantime, tolerant readers, you may or may not be filled with admiration to learn that I was able to spare a moment from my rigorous program of swamp-related activity in order to deliver a 200-word opinion on the future of evolutionary-psychological literary criticism, for which purpose I temporarily assumed the form of a miniscule talking head:


The original of that tiny photograph was taken by super-chef Musa Dağdeviren and, in its uncropped version, shows me holding a bunch of greens known in Turkish as “snake’s pillow” or “heathen’s beet.”




Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Dear friends and readers!  I am sorry to report that I am TOTALLY SWAMPED by an amazing (to me) variety of circumstances, and will have to postpone the Chicago reading originally scheduled for April 6.  Only God and I know how much I was looking forward to seeing my incredibly dear Chicago readers, and how sad I am about this delay, but I’m really hoping to reschedule for late spring.  Meanwhile, if nothing else goes wrong, I should be returning to normal life in approximately two weeks.  Until then, I won’t be able to read or respond to non-urgent emails—please believe that it isn’t because I’m too busy with my hedge analyst friends.  Any publishing- or publicity-related inquiries should please be addressed to someone who gets paid to answer them.  Thank you for your understanding, and I hope this finds you all more comfortably situated than it leaves, at present, your humble servant:


This is where my staff and I will be living for the next 2 weeks.