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MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction Paperback – February 25, 2014


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: n + 1 (February 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865478139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865478138
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“We should first speak about how excellent this book’s title is, as compact and mighty in its way as ‘Godzilla vs. King Kong.’ It promises that someone’s block will be knocked off, as they used to say on the playground about toy robot bouts. If neither side is, in the end, definitively clouted, some useful blows are landed . . . ‘MFA vs NYC’ will appeal to many young writers, not merely for its insider perspective but also for its gossip and confessional essays . . . A serious, helpful and wily book.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“A cast of literary professionals offers an entertaining bounty of experience, opinions and advice . . . Essential insights, masterfully assembled, on the precarious state of American publishing.” —Kirkus

“Remarkably provocative.” — Leslie Jamison, The New Republic

Praise for n+1 magazine

“The best goddamn literary magazine in America.” —Mary Karr, author of Lit: A Memoir

“Just when you’re thinking you’re intellectually alone in the world, something like n+1 falls into your hands.” —Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom

About the Author

Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin and was educated at Harvard and the University of Virginia. He is the author of the bestselling novel The Art of Fielding (2011), as well as a founder and editor of n+1 magazine.

More About the Author

Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin and was educated at Harvard and the University of Virginia. He is a cofounder and coeditor of n+1.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By sara on May 6, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting book for anyone seeking to write. The writer's world has changed dramatically over the past decade, and this book outlines those changes. The creative lifestyle is not what you might imagine, esp. in the digital age. Poverty, disrespect and struggle are not to be romanticized. Yet... One can still have a vibrant & interesting life as a writer. Get a degree, or certificate, that pays decently but doesn't deplete your creativity. Reconsider the move to NYC, as it's not necessary to publish. Write at night, or on weekends. Discipline, as well as the speed of the computer, makes this possible. Besides, a decent job with a fun scene will inspire the writer to write better stories. An MFA is fine, but is the debt worth it? Do you really want to work in the underpaid/disrespected world of academia? This books allows you to answer these questions as you move forward. It makes me grateful for my science degree, even as I pen words late at night in the garret.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Roy Lisker on April 4, 2014
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The only essay that really says something in this book is the obne by Chad Harbachy himself. The title of the anthology suggests a false dichotomy, namely that the writing that really counts nowadays is largely divided between the NYC agents and publishing houses, and the MFA degree programs in colleges and universities. It is hard to believe that an advanced nation with a population of over 300 million should have so narrow a range of choices.
For example: What about the very thriving poetry scene in and around the Bay area of San Francisco, with its dozens of literary bookstores and coffee shops, and as many readings per week?
What about the hundreds of small presses around the country, many of them of very high quality?
What about all the new options for self-publishing? I myself have a website on which dozens of my articles, essays, works of fiction appear. Two of my novels are Kindle E-Mail books. Otherwise I have published in Europe. I dont consider either NYC or the MFA as viable options.
I, also, was "educated" in this false notion, in college, that the only "scenes" in American literature were in NYC or the universities. It's taken me years to realize how wrong this is.
In addition, apart from Mr. Hudson's essay, the writing in this anthology is, by and large, mediocre.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is quite a book if you are an aspiring writer, or effectively a writer, in the USA. It is formed by essays from writers from the two main groups that compose American fiction-writing: those who pursue MFAs (and end up teaching on the same programs) and those who skip the academic path and go straight to work on publishing houses, part-time jobs, waiting tables, etc, until they make it as full-time writers. These groups have different views, plans and lifestyles, but the common goal of making it as writers, and the book highlights the limitations of both paths, the advantages, and give aspiring writers an in-depth look into what they have expecting them.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carl H. Hanson on April 4, 2014
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Great book that compares the two cultures of writing. It did lake a perspective on nonfiction and poetry, but the title states that fiction will be the focus, so my bias is only personal. Only two problems that: 1.) the book needs more depth, more examples; and, 2.) it needs clearer connections between the chapters. All in all it was a wonderful book.
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John Leighton on March 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
These are essays about what the lived life of writers is all about, old territory for some but revelatory for others. As you read these essays, you will annotate them in your head as you go along - it took me quite a while to read this book since I had to frequently set the book in my lap and talk aloud to myself in dialogue with the essayistic points the authors were making.

a few takeaways:
--writing is suffering from an image of "only something the young do." Like most lit mags these days, you need to make allowances for the cutesy references to loving This American Life, being "totally alienated all through high school" (most barftastic theme ever), and all the other "I'm a Millennial!" signposts.
--Elif Batuman's essay is pretty devastating toward MFA culture and she is hands down the best writer ever associated with this magazine. I went to the tenth issue party and Keith's opening sentence was, "Elif Batuman can't be here tonight, sorry, I know this event sucks now, sorry about that."
--surprised no one mentions John Gardner, the proponent of the "fictional dream."
--writing is commercial and a life's work all at the same time
--these essays basically cry out for the conservative point of view, that some maturity and life wisdom count for something, since neither MFA or NYC siders seem very happy. Word to the wise: if you are ever reading something that resolves itself with a shrug like many of these essays do, remember that there is another point of view out there.
--either you get it, or you don't

Good read that will reconfirm your hopes/fears and that's a good thing.
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Format: Paperback
As, I haven't read the book in it's entirety, my view points on particularly based on the first article, with the same title as the book, by Chad Harbach, and the overall theme running in sync throughout the anthology.

This conversation and the debate surrounding the overall topic of the article, the definition of the two cultures defining what it means to be a writer in today’s society, has challenged my thoughts and understandings of my own self and where I lie, on the whole, in the community of professional writers. In all, I am most troubled by the very surface layer of conversation this debate seems to consistently be perpetuated through, as it leaves very little room for the expansive ideas of the real life writers to truly add ideas for real discourse on what could easily be considered a relatively, important discussion. In any regard, I wrote my own thought provoking analysis of the debate and overarching theory. Check it out on my blog EverythingShaquana.com—> MFA vs. NYC? Or Something Else [...]
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