Thursday, July 16, 2009

Creative writing and reading

I enjoyed Louis Menand's piece in the New Yorker last month about creative writing programs. And I think this letter, from the latest issue, is really onto something. We all know people who want to write but don't want to read ("I have to find my own voice!"), and we duly chastise them. But a good creative writing program, or class, will expect students to read published work from a wide variety of times and places. And if all the people currently pouring into MFA programs develop more receptive, meticulous, and patient reading practices as part of their training, that's good for everybody who cares about literature. The complaint about lots of literary journals is that "only writers read those"--if you publish there, you're not reaching some kind of pure, ideal reader who has no writing agenda of her own. I'd say what we really need is more readers who are also writers, even if they never publish, or want to publish, a word. To that end, literary studies courses and programs ought to include some creative writing.

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