Sunday, September 21, 2008

I am a Chimpanzee

So... I'm trying to get caught up on my reading for all of my classes (must use better time management skills in the future) and even now, as I am supposed to be reading, I have stopped to post on my blog. I get distracted easily I suppose.

Side note: found a room in the library that actually has AC--it's a miracle! The temperatures are dropping finally and some trees are changing colors--will post nice pictures soon.

One of the books that we're reading for my workshop class, John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction", managed to put me off within the first few paragraphs. The books subtitle (if that's what it's called) is: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. The part that really through me off was toward the end of the very first page of the book's preface:

"As matter of fact, most of the books one finds in drugstores, supermarkets, and even small-town public libraries are not well written at all;" -- this part didn't bother me... drum roll please... -- "A smart chimp with a good creative-writing teacher and a real love of sitting around banging a typewriter could have written books vastly more interesting and elegant."
He goes on to say who his audience is: "What is said here, whatever use it may be to others, is said for the elite; that is, for serious literary artists."

Well, at this point, I was so throw off by the chimp comment (I really want to have a t-shirt made up in this regard) that I didn't even want to continue reading. I still don't. I just don't get how a person can so easily dismiss the passion of others. Sure, some people publish stories just for the paycheck and maybe they aren't well written--but to essentially call them chimps, banging away at their keyboards? I don't know, that's really insulting to me. I think it's because I feel like I'm split down the middle--half of me is a serious, literary writer (or at least wants to be) and the other half of me is "capable of writing junk fiction", which requires "an authentic junk mind". So essentially, I am half chimp with a dirty, junky mind. Well crap, no wonder I can't get a man. I know he doesn't say "these people are chimps!" but it seems implied to me. I am certain that most writers who have published books (whether they be good or bad) worked very hard on them, and to be just brushed off and placed below chimps banging on keyboards?! It just doesn't sit well with me.

The rest of the book (I've made it through the first two chapters and have one more to go before tomorrow) take on this tone of snobbery and arrogance that I find so nauseating. I'll read it, because between his higher-than-thou ramblings there are a few gems of wisdom, but I'm certain that I won't enjoy it fully.

Definitely not a book for those with aspirations of mass market paperbacks on dime store shelves--like the fun part of me. So the image on this post is exactly what I feel Gardner should do at this point. Still... lots of chapters left to read, we'll see if I change my mind.

1 comment:

Eileen Wiedbrauk / Speak Coffee said...

John Gardner is an ass. Plain and simple. However, if you're secure enough in your own writing to let all his elitist words roll off your skin there are some nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned from The Art of Fiction.

Long ago I did a recommended books on writing blogpost and recommended Gardner with some trepidation. Despite the subtitle that implies the young writer would benefit I state that the very young writer or the new writer would be harmed by his harshness. Then again, maybe one of Gardner's purposes in writing so was to weed out the weak. *shrugs* He's still an ass.


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