Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ficton -- It's All Subjective

Everyone has different tastes in writing.  I've read commercially and critically successful novels that I thought really sucked. 
This brings me to an interesting moment from earlier this month at my residency in the Fairfield University MFA program.  The topic meandered to current Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Tinkers."  Despite the awards and fanfare, our program director is not a fan of this novel.

Which is fine.  I've read "Tinkers."  While I enjoyed it, I'll admit it's not an easy book to get into.  It takes a full commitment.  And it's certainly not the type of novel I would write.

Here's the irony.  "Tinkers" is written by Paul Harding, who at the time of its publication taught a couple of  fiction classes I took at Harvard Extension School before I enrolled in Fairfield's MFA.   When I told him I was applying to MFA programs, he generously agreed to write a recommendation for me.

So, while I don't write like Paul Harding, and our program director may not like his novel, there's a good chance I wouldn't be enrolled at Fairfield's MFA program without Paul's recommendation.  Maybe that's bad for Fairfield's reputation as a program, but it just goes to show that fiction writing is all subjective.

1 comment:

  1. Good point.

    Another interesting point you raise is about a work requiring a full commitment, of a work not being easily accessible. Lately I've been drawn to writing that requires a lot of me, writing that doesn't swing open with a gentle touch but requires a little bit of struggle.

    I'm not sure why this is the case and I still love a book or a short story I can settle into as if it were a featherbed. But isn't there something sort of wonderful about the tussle of a "difficult" piece of fiction or nonfiction?

    I'm very glad Mr. Harding wrote that recommendation.