Monday, August 13, 2012

Literary Diversity

I am the new assistant fiction editor and blogger at Solstice. Here's my first essay for them. It's about literary diversity. Of course, I mention Don DeLillo.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rate Your Creative Writing Professor

Sure they’re widely published and highly decorated, but how are they in the classroom? Are they egomaniacal bores? Are they bullies? Do they have bad breath? Do they pick their nose in class? Some of those questions are answered below in what is a compilation of comments from some of today’s best-known writers. 

Joyce Carol Oates, Princeton  
Overall Quality: 4.0 Helpfulness: 4.0 Clarity: 4.0 Easiness: 3.6

“What an honor it was to have not one, but two creative writing seminars with this woman. (I was never good at the actual writing, but she helped me become a better critic, more than anything else.) She's surprisingly small and birdlike, but you know you're in the presence of a very fine artist and an insightful mind. Fond memories.”

“Not as good as John Oates of Hall and Oates fame, but good.”

“This lady is a legend. It was an honor to have her as an instructor.”

“Brooke Shields told me this was a great blow off class. Warren Oates would have been a more inspiring teacher--he's dead now.”

George Saunders, Syracuse
Overall Quality: 5.0 Helpfulness: 5.0 Clarity: 5.0 Easiness: 5.0

“Maybe the best fiction writer alive. His lectures put me in raptures.”

Leslie Epstein, Boston University
Overall Quality: 3.6 Helpfulness: 3.4 Clarity: 3.7 Easiness: 1.7

“Brilliant, but bitterly honest. If you can't take a joke, don't take this class.”

“Sadly Dr. Epstein runs classes that are geared to feeding his own ego than to student growth. Expect mind games, bullying, shaming and a clarrooom where the professor's subjective judgement rules all interaction.”

“brilliant. gorgeous.”

“Difficult but I learned a lot from Dr. Epstein. From what I hear he has a pretty cool son too.”

“He'll only make you feel bad about yourself if you a) are a terrible writer, b) have a thin skin, or c) both. Amazing course, amazing professor. Check your ego at the door and you'll learn more about writing than you ever thought possible.”

“Do it his way, or watch out!”

Robert Hass, U Cal Berkeley
Overall Quality: 4.0 Helpfulness: 4.2 Clarity: 3.8 Easiness: 3.4

“Terrible lecturer, mostly had no idea what I was talking about, went off on random tangents and didnt focus lectures. I know he is supposed to be a genius but even when I tried to see that in his lectures, just couldn't. Absurd amount of reading, but nothing was that difficult. Writing assignments easy, study guides for all tests. lecture=useless”

“The class had so much interesting material but his presentation of it was boring and monotonous. Instead of bulleting key points he divulges into extreme detail on a few unimportant points. Not a good teacher for ESPM.”

“First of all he's a stone cold genius,The person who wrote he goes off on irrelevant tangents is the biggest geek on the planet and probably just too stupid to follow him. Hass is beautiful in every sense,there's a golden aura of spirituality radiating about him,He's also like clairvoyantly intuitive, +I'd just his bones if he weren't my teacher.”

“Of all the English classes I took, definitely near the bottom of the list. As approachable and amiable he is, "American Poetry" lacked substance. He would spend all of class sharing anecdotes about poets and leave only the last 10-15 minutes talking about our readings. I wanted to gain a better insight into reading poetry but didn't find that here.”

“Because how can one spend four years at Berkeley and NOT want to take classes from a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet laureate? Who is genuinely helpful (even to students from other classes) as well as kind, brilliant, fascinating and funny? Terrific guy.”

Brian Evenson, Brown University
Overall Quality: 3.2 Helpfulness: 3.3 Clarity: 3.0 Easiness: 1.7

“Tough class, a lot of reading, but very rewarding if you're willing to put in the work.”

“ugh. sounded good. but not. fun class, but no structure. Papers were supposed to be as response, but no guidance, then poor grades =( poo.”

“We didnt talk about the act of writing or how writers do that. Instead, we talked about the same stuff as any lit class: themes etc. (we did touch upon book design, but thats not relevent to writing as publishers choose that) He is a very very stringent grader- but the workload is reasonable. Triple your efforts though, bc he is TOUGH. too tough.”

Chinua Achebe, Bard College
Overall Quality: 4.2 Helpfulness: 4.2 Clarity: 4.2 Easiness: 4.0


“Achebe rules!”

“KNOWS EVERYTHING. amazing class”

“Chinua is impressive only because he personally knows the authors he teaches. However, he doesn't really teach at all. It's sad, because what you read in modern african fiction is really interesting.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dane vs Kelly 2012 US Open

Tom Curren and Kelly Slater are the two best surfers in the history of surfing. They changed both free-surfing and competitive surfing. Their highly technical, highly stylized brands of wave riding became the paradigm for both groms and ASP judging during their respective eras. Their fame didn’t need the ASP. Magazines and films were enough in those days. Curren and Slater have made the ASP what it is today. Luckily for that organization, both Curren and Slater were as competitive as they were gifted. Both surfers went on to break all sorts of ASP records in regards to championships and number of heats won. Professional success takes genius and competitiveness, but it also requires luck. Curren and Slater had /have an uncanny way of getting lucky in heats. Their heats always seem to have the best waves in a given contest. A rogue wave always seemed/seems to come in the dying seconds when they need it. The ocean always seemed to be in their favor. You’d swear it seemed to be playing favorites with them.

Dane Reynolds is currently the most talented surfer in the world. He is an amalgamation of Curren and Slater. His competitive ineptitudes have been widely publicized and discussed. My opinion is that Dane’s competitive struggles aren’t due to his lack of competitive edge. Dane is more competitive than people think. His is of the silent variety, as was Curren’s. Dane’s contest failings are result of luck. Waves never seem to come to him in heats. So many of his heats leave him needing an easily obtainable score but with the ocean going flat. Sure he’s had some brain farts in heats, but his skill is so great that he can easily overcome it with a single move on a closeout. The ocean never delivers for Dane. His heats are always wave-starved. It’s painful to watch. His latest heat against Kelly in this year’s US Open was yet another example of the ocean not giving him what he needs. What promised to be the heat of the century ended up depressingly anti-climactic. The heat demonstrated Dane’s habit of over-hyping for big heats, of getting frustrated too quickly, which could be interpreted as trying too hard, or being too competitive. He did have his opportunities but seemed to be pressing too hard on a few maneuvers. If he had landed that one backside air-reverse, the hear would have been over. Fortunately for Dane, his reign as surfing’s new god doesn’t need the ASP. His blog is more than enough.