Tag Archives: Lorin Stein

How Should an Author Be

MFA vs NYC

FA review tag

Chad Harbach, the editor and introducer of MFA vs NYC, calls his book a “jointly written novel” whose “composite heroine is the fiction writer circa 2014.” What better way to empathize with the composite heroine of this jointly written novel than to read her adventures in the year in which she lives and breathes and, hopefully, still writes? So the first thing I felt upon cracking MFA vs NYC in Istanbul, 5,628 miles away from Iowa and 5,014 from NYC, circa 2014, was a sense of freshness and immediacy. I associate those feelings with social media rather than books, and TV shows like Girls rather than essay collections on creative writing. This sense of newness was surprising, given that Harbach’s essay, which gives the book its title and kickstarts its central discussion, was published in 2010.

Although some of its material is a few years old, this is no book for old men. Nor is it written by them, but for one notable exception. The pieces in the book are concerned with a fresh question that most young-to-middle-aged English-speaking writers of our era are presumably asking themselves a lot: How should a fiction-writing person be in the world of American fiction, which seems profoundly divided between a university-based creating writing workshops culture, and a New York-based publishing and freelancing-until-the-moment-of-success-arrives culture?

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MFA vs NYC: The Free Stuff

MFA vs NYC

And now it’s a book. Chad Harbach’s essay from n+1 about “the two cultures of American fiction”—the MFA mill and the NYC establishment—has grown into a collection of 19 essays, including pieces by George Saunders, Emily Gould, and Elif Batuman, all of them addressing the question of how, exactly, a person becomes a writer in this day and age.

One lesson of MFA vs NYC is that writers are almost always broke. Luckily for broke writers, 9 of the book’s essays are currently available online. So if you don’t want to buy MFA vs NYC—perhaps because you’re writing a novel about Moldavian zookeepers—here is half of it for free.

“MFA vs NYC” by Chad Harbach

“A Mini-Manifesto” by George Saunders

“The Fictional Future” by David Foster Wallace

“How To Be Popular” by Melissa Flashman

“People Wear Khakis” by Lorin Stein with Astri von Arbin Ahlander

“Money (2006)” by Keith Gessen

“The Invisible Vocation” by Elif Batuman

“Dirty Little Secret” by Fredric Jameson

“Reality Publishing” by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington

And some extra tidbits.

A few of these pieces were edited—shortened and/or given a different title–for the book. We’re using the titles from the book itself.

UPDATE:

Three more essays have been published online. Thanks to Michael Bourne at The Millions for pointing them out.

“The Pyramid Scheme” by Eric Bennett

“Into the Woods” by Emily Gould

“Seduce the Whole World” by Carla Blumenkranz

– Brian Hurley

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