- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Dream of Things (January 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 098257942X
- ISBN-13: 978-0982579428
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,890,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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MFA in a Box: A Why to Write Book
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From Publishers Weekly
Drawing on Gilgamesh, the Book of Job, the myth of Orpheus, his own life, and the lives of Ezra Pound and Jack Henry Abbott, with a little James Hillman thrown in, Rember (Traplines) argues that the only reason to write is to tell the truth about the soul-less, life-denying, nature-destroying culture we inhabit. This news simultaneously taps into a writer's deepest fantasy-I'm the one, the truth teller-and nightmare-writing really does require a descent into hell, and makes the writer superhuman, able to bear truths the rest of society can't. There must be a lot of kryptonite about, then, because Rember's effort often reads like a cross between self-help manual (face the darkness!) and a teacher's cri de coeur (go deeper; don't make me read another puerile story!). It's hard to argue with some of his points-yes, language lies, especially when writers mistake prettifying for deepening. But when the insights have to be plucked from a mash-up of overstatements, self-indulgent personal narratives, and gnomic and risible rules like "Dream as a God, write as a mortal," most writers and would-be-writers will opt to find another box.
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"Rember's MFA in a Box: A Why to Write Book is more than an advice book with a catchy title. What makes it different than the many, many books about writing on the market today is the way Rember engages his readers in some of the issues every writer faces--writing about place, about family, about grief--not as problems to be overcome but as issues to be understood." --Jeff Baker, Book Editor, The (Portland) Oregonian, January 3, 2011
"Witty, audacious, and wise, John Rember's MFA in a Box is a unique and valuable book that addresses the subject--and the life experience--of Creative Writing from both a practical perspective and in a manner so highly personable you'll read it like a memoir--and want to meet the author. Rember has the storyteller's magic. You'll be enthralled. And walk away a more astute and vibrant writer." --Robin Metz, author of Unbidden Angel, winner of the Rainer Maria Rilke International Poetry Award, and Director of the Program in Creative Writing at Knox College, January 1, 2011
"John Rember's MFA in a Box should be on every writer's bookshelf, right next to On Writing by Stephen King and other great books on the art and craft of creative writing." -- Randy Richardson, President, Chicago Writers Association -- (chicagowrites.org), January 2011
Nautilus Book Awards, Silver Winner - Writing/Creative Process Category --Nautilus Book Awards, May 14, 2011
Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Short List, and 1st Runner Up - Reference Category --Eric Hoffer Award, May 12, 2011
Midwest Book Awards, Finalist - Reference Category --Midwest Independent Publishers Association, May 12, 2011
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The downside? It has an uninspiring cover.
For starters, John Rember provides new perspectives on Anderson's Little Match Girl and the misogyny of Bob Dylan and Joyce Carol Oates. He introduces the concept of a fifth primary taste sensation, umami, the savory taste of protein, separate from the basic four we've always known (salty, sweet, sour and bitter). Then he slips in a phrase that's haunted me for the past six years after the successive deaths of my first husband, a longtime boyfriend and a second husband: that some suspect that "everyone who ever loved you is dead." OMG,IMHO, he nails it!
With all this to think about, I wondered if I'd ever get to sleep. But I slipped off into a troubled dream where The Little Match Girl listens to Dylan rasping out "Positively 4th Street" as she freezes to death finger by finger, toe by toe. Rember says writers need to pay attention to irony and violence. I agree.
This book is so allusive, so sly, and so on point on both how and why we incorporate our every experience into what we write. I've flipped ahead to the index to discover with delight that Leave it To Beaver nestles against Leaves of Grass, and Shakespeare and Anne Nicole Smith can be found within hugging range.
I'll read chapters three and four tonight and anticipate more wondrously complicated dreams. And when I devote tomorrow to writing an essay about marriage, I'll remember to include the irony and violence.MFA in a Box: A Why to Write Book
I recommend this book to anyone looking for an inspirational read or who just enjoys writing at its best.
I am at Chapter 10 at this point and find the advice about 'writing what you know' to be very interesting. I may not have a story as a young man but with age comes grief. Art has a way of surfacing through this process. I agree wholeheartedly with this premise. It opens up all kinds of memories - most of which were traumatic to me personally but may well ring true to readers. Amazing. Writing has become a healing process for a broken heart. And that, my friends is my 'WHY'.
Packed solid with observations and guidence, but not technology, this book was a joy to read. When I read the last page I was invigorated and found more joy in what I was currently working on. Who can forget the author's name, so easy to remember, Rember! Fun and factual.