Saturday, April 01, 2006

Michael Chabon offers an interesting and rather unexpected

defense of the creative writing program, says that the MFA he did at UC Irvine turned him from "a little shit" into "something that had begun, inwardly, to resemble a man":

Misogyny comes naturally to a young man in his late teens; it is a function of the powerful homosocial impulses that flower along fraternity row, that drove the mod movements of the mid-sixties and the late seventies, that lie at the heart of every all-male rock band formed by men of that age. Because I was bright and a would-be artiste my own misogyny wore a beret, as it were, and quoted Nietszche. But it was just--and I don't mean to excuse it with that adverb--garden variety late-teenaged, homosocial misogyny as practiced by young men all over the world. It certainly didn't constitute any kind of philosophical program or post-modern structure of morality. It was a phase, a plankton bloom in the brain, a developmental stage, albeit one that found ample reinforcement, if not glorification, in culture both popular and high-brow, in the Rolling Stones "Stupid Girl" and Woody Allen's best movies, in Jorge Luis Borges, in William Shakespeare.

I don't know how much of this Millerite misogyny was reflected in my writing at the time; a fair amount, I suppose. You can see clear traces of it in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and its mournful ghost in my short story "Millionaires." And I don't know if I would, in time, have emerged from this stage on my own. People have argued more or less persuasively that our culture--okay, our entire civilization--is founded on misogyny, or that in its current state it represents a collective case of arrested adolescent development, and I guess even a man who outgrows the little shit never leaves him entirely behind. But when I showed up at Irvine to start my first year as the youngest member of the MFA fiction workshop, I was not ready for what I found there: a room full of grown ups, more than half of them women. Some of these women were married, one of them had a grown child of her own. Without taking themselves half as seriously as I did, they were all twice as serious about what they were doing. They were better read, more disciplined, more widely traveled, and far less impressed with me than I was. If they were feminists—and I am sure that each of them was—they were practiced and experienced feminists, versed in theory and tested if not hardened by the real world. And most of these women, even those who were not much older than I was, were finished—long since finished—with the charms, real or imaginary, of little shits.

(Link via Bookslut.)

1 comment:

  1. It's odd, but the more I read this from Chabon - and I've read the original on his website - I find in it a tone of self-congratulation: look at me, look how far I've come, just me, me...