Do you ever wonder how some of the famous writers of the past would fare in a writer’s workshop? I know I do. Last semester I was in a World Post Modernism course and now I’m enrolled in a British Modernism course. I’m starting to wonder what the big deal is about some of these writers. During my Post Modern course I brought this question up to my classmates, most of whom were literature majors, so it was so of brushed off, you know the good ole ” oh that crazy MFA.”
Well, when I brought it up we were reading Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy. The back synopsis made me think it was going to be this wonderful thriller, of course since when do I read the synoposis on the back of a book thinking I’m not being deliberately deceived? So, Jealousy is heralded for its descriptions and genius, but you know what there are times in the book (and yes I’m aware it is deliberate, and why he did it) where he repeats paragraphs verbatim. It’s ridiculous. So I wondered, how would a workshop treat this? Would everyone be thrilled by the form matching the content or some bullshit like that? I imagine it going one of two ways, “OMG Robbe-Grillet, this is genius. Simply genius” or “Dude, what’s with the repetition, it’s annoying. Do something about it.” I image the second option more likely.
So for my class this week I had to read “England my England” by D.H. Lawrence. My question for my professor when I stroll in today will be, “what is the big deal?” I will refrain from using profanities as it is disrespectful, but it will be tempting. We are told constantly by writers to “show and not tell” or not to tell too much. I’m a big fan of exposition but in moderation of course. Good dialogue makes me so happy. Anyway, I know I’m rambling a bit. What is the big deal? There are maybe five scenes in the whole story, all which are boring and don’t really do much for the character development. The narrator seems to be reporting a lame ass story about a family and then it ends. Abruptly.
I imagine this being workshopped and people saying, “I think a scene is necessary here” or “your characters lack development” or “why not cut the first few pages and start here” but instead we as students attempting to be scholars are told, the work of D.H. Lawrence is brilliant.
Well, I’m not impressed. This is not to say I don’t think that a lot the literature that is in the cannon (whatever that cannon may be) isn’t brilliant. I do believe writer’s like Woolf, Marquez, Austen, Borges and Joyce and so many others were in fact geniuses. I’m pretty confident that the English departments of the world know what is worthwhile and not, but there are times when I have found some of it to be overrated.
I will say, as someone who aspires to write for a career, I know I’m no where near as smart as the writers I think are overrated. It could just be that I don’t get it, I don’t have the depth. It call also be a matter of taste. Probably though, these writers aren’t overrated, in fact, it is I who am simply an idiot.