Friday, August 17, 2007

Slow-play flight school with James McManus

I had seminar with James McManus. He's taught at school of the art institute in chicago for about twenty-five years. His student roster includes David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell. Jimbosweetness, what he prefers to be called. Joyce scholar. Everything we read received sentence level attention. He's a tediously good reader. Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation, a few of the Sedaris series, Johnson's Jesus' Son, Lorrie Moore's Birds of America, and of course all of RayCarver's work, some Robert Coover, Obama's bio.

Last three classes were for workshop. Instead of reading Barack Obama's text we'd read our own. I think he said to one of the guys after a read, "Wow, you really like Saunders, don't you? Well, when you have coffee with him tell him Dybek and I want our money." Kinda things he'd say. He'd recently won bundles o'cash at the highstakes thing in Vegas, then that book whatitsname came out. He's got a Slow-play and a good bluff, but tends to play his hands conservatively.

Scary putting work on table in that class. Ended up on the flight with him to Las Vegas, my story that is, and he'd said, "guess I'll like it depending on how good I do down there." He enjoyed the piece though he'd blown 30 large. Asked how my twentieth draft was going, and wanted to know why a Finish man was buried under the porch instead of a Finnish man thought I should include more rags if he was a Finish man. Also asked a few other things that weren't jokey-'oops, I'm stupid'-editing things, and helped me polish the piece to a shine.

Jimbosweetness always asked how our lives were going, what our plans were and made sure to be a jackass when jackassery was called for.

8 comments:

Lizzy said...

Well, the only thing I don't get is the Barack Obama thing. Other than that, I'm not headed to SAIC anytime soon, so can't look forward to studying with him. But he sounds interesting.

Is he a writer first and a gambler later? Or viceversa? Or?

Alan G said...

How I learned to write: they paid me; I didn't pay them.

I learned how to write. I didn't pay. They paid me. I don't think there was a better way. I do have an M.F.A. It is in theatre. That's not where I learned to write. I'd like to share my experience. I think it is rather unique and although you may not find it to your liking, or even possible, I believe you could contour my experience in such a way that it could be helpful to your own development. What did learning to write do for me? I've published fiction, several humanities textbooks, and had my own feuilliton (a regular column wherein I wrote about any subject I chose and got paid). But how did I learn to write? I never took a writing class. Thank goodness. I did sit on a few, so my rather negative perspective is informed by experience. If it weren't 2:12 AM and if I weren't at a conference, and if I weren't concerned about waking my roommate, I'd continue. But it will have to wait. Let me know if you want to hear more. ; )

june bug said...

continue, alan, only if you're not going to slam mfas

Vince said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vince said...

It's nice to know that I can meet him if I go to SAIC; otherwise, I'm sore out of luck.

Conor said...

just a good kinda intro into what may happen in an mfa if you're into craZy good professors who gamble

Janet said...

Thanks for posting this. I can't wait to start school at SAIC and one of my goals is to take a class with James McManus.

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