Thursday, January 04, 2007

Day One

I recently saw Art School Confidential, and the movie, while not perfect, amused and (get ready to laugh) moved me. More than that, it depressed me—not a difficult task these days. I was depressed because I feared that the lighter events of the film (not the murder mystery elements) would mirror my coming days studying writing. Yesterday was class one of grad school, and I have to admit I saw some parallels, though I’m the first to admit I was probably looking for them.

To start with, there are my classmates, all seemingly ambitious, all very much writerly types in the annoying way that makes me want to run back to the southwest suburbs and find work in a warehouse or mail sorting facility. There was the young poet: a girl in her twenties, turtle neck and terribly sculpted eye brows, she takes pleasure in lapsing into French, correctly pronounces words we all agree sound better mispronounced (think “forte” and “angst”) and speaks often of her writing but rudely interrupts a classmate while he speaks of his. Like something out of Marquez, I saw the bull’s-eye form on her forehead as she forced her practiced laugh.

There was the blow-hard. Long hair in a ponytail and accompanying soul-patch, he speaks about how he “devoured” a recent book of poetic essays and name-drops writers he has read as if no one else ever could have heard of them. He then references his own writing almost as often, misreads the poem we read for class, and projects analysis on the poem when the professor asked for structural examination. He probably listens to that jam band nonsense and smokes dope to get in the creative mood. He probably loves the Beats.

And then there was the mother who returned to school to study poetry writing now that her kids left the house. Good for her. At least I’m not the oldest student in the room.

I suppose it is the fault of the professor. He asked us to talk about our concerns over our work, which, when it comes to would-be artists, is in essence a violent opening of the pretension floodgates. When it was my turn I babbled something vague that I don’t really mean, I just had to say something so they wouldn’t press. I think I said, “I really want to work on tightening my writing,” to which anyone with a brain would have replied with a sarcastic “no shit?” That’s the idea, right? What else am I there to do, fuck around for hundreds of bucks a credit hour?

I enter into this with slight trepidation. I am sure it will all get better or at least easier, or at least I will learn to tune out the boho blow-hards and the prissy princess poets. I wish to reiterate that I am very, very glad I did not do this as an undergrad. The level of writing is supposed to be better on the graduate level, or so they say, so I expect better things as a result from myself and my classmates—not to mention that a background in literary terms, analytical exercise and basic knowledge of the history of literature can only help when some ambitious youngster decides that what they are doing somehow is original. (Just last night someone spoke about writing a novel of all dialogue, thinking it a brilliant new idea. Obviously she’s never heard of Manuel Puig.) We’ll see, but for now I’m diving in and trying to silence those voices that whisper words of both failure and murder. Luckily they bottle the cure.

Thanks for listening to the preceding rant. Grumpy ol’ Bastard out.