You are viewing:

Guy at the Bar

Guy at the Bar: Vince Passaro on Harold Brodkey, Gordon Lish, and Pat Towers, Middle of the Night

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Guy at the Bar / Reading Under the Influence

comments: Comments Off on Guy at the Bar: Vince Passaro on Harold Brodkey, Gordon Lish, and Pat Towers, Middle of the Night



Up tonight, knee shaking, foot shaking. I think Trader Joe spiked my decaf. So it’s 1:00 a.m. when I start thinking about Harold Brodkey — does anyone think about Harold Brodkey anymore? All artistic talent of the first order is incomprehensible but certain talents strike us as more familiar and approachable than others. George Orwell, for instance, whose prose’s muscle and clarity — clarity above all — affected me strongly, does not mystify me. I have a solid sense of where he came from, where his language came from, his general mode of thinking.  Brodkey’s particular genius remains ungraspable. The language is Jewish, it’s American, it’s baroque, it’s beautiful and divine. Divine I mean as in suffused with a spiritual force and a spiritual necessity above that mustered by mere mortals.  It is miraculous and harrowing: to look into his work is like watching a great surgeon, a world class surgeon, magically operate on himself, remove his own organs, examine them in bloodied hands, drop them in a pan. Continue reading →

Guy at the Bar: AWP and Diversity. Does No One Out There Have Any Sense?

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Guy at the Bar

comments: 3 comments

Bill and Dave at AWP Boston

Bill and Dave at AWP Boston

AWP — who gives a fuck? (There’s a little so-med shitstorm about Kate Gale’s not altogether sensitive piece in The Huffington Puffington I’llBlowYourHouseDownington Post about AWP “diversity” — about which I guess I give enough of a fuck to write this.) Here’s some news: AWP–the Association of Writing Programs–is an association of MFA programs. It looks like an MFA program, it walks like an MFA program, it talks like an MFA program, what’s the issue here? It’s bureaucratic and uninteresting and being twice removed from the actual task and demand of creative writing, it is in every way an “organization”, handing out tote bags and missing the point. In any case, further news for the uninitiated: MFA programs charge a lot of money and keep two thousand writers employed with 403Bs and good medical plans and good cars and nice refrigerators. (As the familiarly-initialed WPA briefly tried to do, but way less intrusively.) In all but a handful of cases the programs are designed as not-great-but-steady profit centers for universities who have to spend money on students in other (liberal arts, non-professional) programs. Therefore students face high tuition costs. So what do people expect its representative organization to look like? A social services agency? Many MFA students are cash poor and go into hock up to their necks to study writing with teachers and fellow students whom they admire and hope to be enlightened by; I did this once, though it wasn’t so expensive then. (That’s how I met Bill Roorbach!) But if you come from a place that is poor, if everything and everyone you’ve ever known is poor, it takes a particularly rare kind of cognitive and cultural leap to go $20-40,000 in debt, or more, to get into a profession that doesn’t pay and never will. As such a poor person, you would have had to have done this already for your BA in most cases, so the odds are really low. Does no one out there have any sense? AWP stands for All White People, because as Kate Gale put it, so amusingly cluelessly, that is us. Continue reading →