You try to maintain a modicum of normalcy. You try not to sleep in too late; you clean every inch of your apartment, even parts that haven’t seen daylight since you moved in. You pin the dog down and scrub her clean while she shivers and tries to get away, seemingly forgetting that you are bigger than she is; she is indifferent when you show her the dirty bath water. When all is quiet you reflect, on your age and place, and how they aren’t what you had in mind when you were 15 and the 30s seemed eons away, but you couldn’t wait—by then, you wouldn’t have to do what anyone else said you had to do; you wouldn’t have to go to school, you wouldn’t have to do chores, you wouldn’t have to hide in the bathroom for a little peace and quiet. And then that bathroom became your shoebox of an apartment, and it’s no longer your parents arguing that you overhear, but your neighbors having sex, and you stare at the dog while she sleeps and her snout twitches and her eyes flit back and forth, seeing whatever it is dogs see when they dream. It’s hard not to count the hours, not to focus your day according to the schedule of television programs you enjoy watching, or not wait for a friend to get off of work for the day so they can spend a few precious minutes with you, because those minutes make you feel human. You think—you know—it could be worse, but “worse” is different for everyone. So you get used to the weekday, daytime listlessness. You say you don’t envy all the workerbees schlepping to their offices and then back home, though secretly, you do. You plot, quietly. You wait and see.
Exactly. We should all have an hourly rate.
…who went on a tirade during a luncheon speech last week at BookExpo. “Amazon also, as you know, wants to control bookselling, book buying, and even book publishing, and that is a national tragedy—James Patterson, quoted in the New York Times.
I dislike James Patterson—the
infomercials commercials he does for his books freak me out—but I do agree with him in this regard. I was taught that competition was at the core of our economic system, so I’m not really clear on what Amazon is trying to do here. I mean…I am, but I think the mighty have farther to fall.
I find this interesting not only as a former and possibly future employee of the publishing industry, but also because I just saw this question on a job application. It was something like “Amazon is…” [ complete the sentence].
How can you answer that without either sounding like an asshole or an apologist?
From what I saw the plurality of students and faculty had been educated exclusively in the tradition of writers like William Gaddis, Francine Prose, or Alice Munro—and not at all in the traditions of Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker, or Jamaica Kincaid. In my workshop the default subject position of reading and writing—of Literature with a capital L—was white, straight and male. This white straight male default was of course not biased in any way by its white straight maleness—no way! Race was the unfortunate condition of nonwhite people that had nothing to do with white people and as such was not a natural part of the Universal of Literature, and anyone that tried to introduce racial consciousness to the Great (White) Universal of Literature would be seen as politicizing the Pure Art and betraying the (White) Universal (no race) ideal of True Literature.
—Junot Diaz, “MFA vs. POC" in The New Yorker
Oh, Junot. How do I love thee?
At some point, I think, every writer of color who has received an MFA stops wondering if their writing is bad (it probably isn’t), and starts to wonder if they just come from the wrong ethnic group and class.
In one class during my MFA, I went through our reading material to satisfy a suspicion—that all the work we’d been assigned to read was primarily by white male authors. So I did. And it was. Now I’m not the type of person to dismiss good writing—many of the writers in our binder were really good, solid writers—John McPhee! David Sedaris! However, they are not the only good, solid writers in existence. The professor of that class claimed he’d just picked writers he admired and who he thought exemplified the class’ objective—creative journalism, essentially—and I thought, how unfortunate. How unfortunate that the only people who have shaped your art are ones who look and sound exactly like you.
I could go on about the issues surrounding race and class in the creative arts, but I won’t. Instead I have to go back to my real job, so I can pay my very real rent and buy my real groceries.
But I’m not bitter in the least.