Recently Rejected by McSweeneys

"This belongs in a Museum" -- Michael K


On 6/17/09 3:45 PM, "Abbi M Dion" wrote:
How Much for an MFA in W.T.F.?
By Abbi Mireille Dion
(215) 983-9356

I'm starting to think you have to go through an MFA Program if you want to be a real writer. Fuck experience. Fuck drinking, fuck reading, fuck camping by yourself for six weeks, fuck prison, fuck fucking.

Here's the real tortures of the damned: stay up all night writing about the time you parked outside the suburban home of your married lover while your father sat in the passenger seat and asked you how things were going. This was the night you played a mix-tape from high school (a tape Married Guy praised as "heart-breaking") and the psychedelic furs sang burned down days like cigarettes and your father told you a story about men and love and deciding not to hurt people when presented with the possibility to do so, and then you picked up a handful of pencils from the backseat and threw them on Married Guy's lawn because they were all you had.

Write about this night and then face down a room of writers your own age and listen to them say: I don't find this narrator very convincing.

Or if you're lucky, maybe they'll say: I like what you're doing; subverting the patriarchy. But I'm not doing any such thing, you'll protest. But you'll be drowned out by side conversations in which you will not be invited to participate.

There will be professors who can't ever seem to remember your name or why you've come to their office--but they will remember they haven't had lunch and excuse themselves, quickly.

In their office you will wait. You will sit, quietly, in the burnt orange chair watching the large classroom clock spin a steady arc (a word you cannot say without cringing) calculating the price of each minute using a formula that looks like this:

_____1_______________ ________$$$$______________
Total minutes in grad school = $40,000 in sub and unsubsidized Stafford Loans

Of course you don't actually calculate this figure--that's why you're in a writing program to begin with: you simply cannot be fucked to do anything other than indulge the most trivial of pursuits. Let's say it: you're lazy. You admit this. Freely. The others insist they are not, though they are, and this is why they despise you.

By the middle of the second semester only two people are speaking with you. Coincidentally, they are both heavy drinkers. But at least these dudes don't accuse you of mimicking Lorrie Moore. They don't even know who on earth she is, and if they did, they still wouldn't accuse you of that. Why? Because it is irrelevant. I bet in a better world no one would say "one of the greatest liabilities to your work is your further bureaucratizing of Lorrie's style." Loudly, to make sure everyone knows they're reading theory on the side. (Because we playin' a language game!) So, I say, why do you refer to Lorrie Moore as Lorrie and Knut Hamsun as Hamsun? I'd prefer we stick to a universal default, if you will--nome or cognome--you know, or some other agreed upon system. The young woman who has made the gaffe (it wasn't really) looks at me with the expression referred to by my current officemate as the "if looks could kill" look. The instructor is inspecting his sandwich.

I'll excuse myself, I say and exit stage left, turning right and heading for the stairwell. God forbid you run into another classmate who doesn't know your name and who'll be forced to share the descending box with you down twelve floors in a manner not unlike boredom mixed with irritation mixed with 'tevs. You've pressed the button for an earlier floor in the past, simply to relieve them.

When you get out on the fifth floor you watch children trundle by, you brush your fingers along their bags, swinging ponytails, and shifting limbs. You are praising them, adoring them, wishing them fame and fortune.

If they are in this God forsaken wasteland, then they're in CLA and that means a lifetime of regret and what-ifs. No, no, I'm kidding with you now. It might mean a lifetime of love and joy and music playing and film watching and enlightened traveling, what do I know?! I'm the joke of the English Department! People cross halls to avoid me.

On the fifth floor, I walk past these malleable creatures and I do not think of my ex boyfriend, a 40 year old PhD Candidate in Literary Criticism and inventor of new lows, specifically regarding professional misconduct with students (rich!). No, I think of myself at their tender age. Nineteen--ten years ago--and I was an absolute mess. No drugs. No alcohol. No sex. Just an emotional tree branch in the flood. Just driving my parents' car through downtown St. Paul in the middle of the night, looking at old buildings and houses, wishing to spend whole winter nights inside them, whispering, lighting matches.

Well, back in class, we are doing a writing exercise, because someone has just figured out: can't none of us write! I scribble about being nineteen and sitting in the car with my dear Pa outside of the house of the Town Heartbreaker. I call it, Woebegone Country People. Because I am from Minnesota and everyone in Philadelphia thinks we speak in the accented language of the Lundegaards (which we do) and wear long johns in July (which we also do--but this has a lot more to do with mental illness than weather conditions and regional phonology). So I read my story and someone accuses me of playing off Flannery O'Connor. It's true, I say, Flannery--have we determined first names are the way to go?--Flannery's distinctive style can never be imitated, only travestied.

No one thinks too long and hard about this, which they shouldn't because it's a line I got from a Norton Anth. It was used to describe an American writer who writes absolute tripe (not Flannery!) Well then class ended (an hour early, inexplicably) and all the writers went to a bar called The Mad Horse for one beer and light discussion (that would be heavily and darkly competitive) and I went home to smoke pot and drink red wine and work on my dystopic maximalist novel about radioactive beetles who work in an underground hotdog factory called Tiananmen Flatts for a boss named Frank B (who may or may not exist) in an effort to cater the next world war, until one day they leave the totalitarian cave and discover joy and pain, love and grief, and through this journey discover the meaning of what philosophers call life. (This work will receive unanimous praise, with the proviso the entire ending be cut). The End.



From: McSweeney's Web Submissions []
Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 8:23 AM
To: Abbi M Dion
Subject: Re: How Much for an MFA in W.T.F.?_AbbiDion

Hi, Abbi -

This one has its moments, but I think maybe the venom overwhelms the humor a bit too much. Hope it provided you some catharsis, though. Thanks for the look.


Christopher Monks
Website Editor

No comments: