Intermezzo: Art and Life
The people I’ve known in MFA programs (yesterday, today, and probably twenty years from now) get taught to write.
Or, they get taught to write short stories.
Or, they get programmed to write short stories.
Or, they get programmed to write certain types of short stories.
The language is usually okay, although clichés are dispensed like crutches in an infirmary. The effort, for the most part, is there (no one, after all, would take the time to take a crack at serious writing unless they wanted to do it right; the only exceptions are the ones to whom it comes easily and who write the way most people urinate: often, every day, and it’s mostly water, or the other sort: the ones who don’t have time to actually write because they are talking about all the books they have planned out in their pointy heads, not only because it is less complicated to discuss ones brilliance at a party or in a bar, but also because there is always an audience, however reluctant). The underlying impulse, the central nervous system of these short stories, always at least approximates technical proficiency.
What we wind up with is a story that avoids everything the young writer has not experienced: love, fear, empathy, and understanding. For starters. Style over substance equals an anaesthetized aesthetic; a soulless solution for a problem the writer created. And the short story, upon inspection, is a shell that reveals its non-essence. Poetic pronouncements of some of the important things the student does not understand.
In other words: short stories that might sell. Short stories that strive to be successful. Short stories for readers with short memories. And in some cases, a star is born.