Sunday, April 20, 2014

MFA vs. NYC



This is a very fine review of Chad Harbach's MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction.


Mr. Harbach delineates two distinct literary cultures in America, “one condensed in New York, the other spread across the diffuse network of provincial college towns that spans from Irvine, Calif., to Austin, Tex., to Ann Arbor, Mich., to Tallahassee, Fla.” There also exists, he observes, “a kind of wormhole at the center, in Iowa City, into which one can step and reappear at the New Yorker offices on 42nd Street.”

 The superficial differences between M.F.A. and N.Y.C., he writes, “can be summed up charticle-style: short stories vs. novels; Amy Hempel vs. Jonathan Franzen; library copies vs. galley copies; Poets & Writers vs. The New York Observer; ‘Wonder Boys’ vs. ‘The Devil Wears Prada’; the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference vs. the Frankfurt Book Fair; departmental parties vs. publishing parties.” And so on.

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