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Showing posts from May, 2011

The "Angry Black Man" returns -- but only for a short while

Melissa Harris-Perry and Adam Serwer wrote majestic takedowns of Cornel West's vicious and deeply personal rant against President Obama published this week, so I didn't think I had to. But there's one thing missing in the torrent of reaction to West I've seen this week: a recognition that maybe this is the way identity politics had to end, not with a bang but a whine. Dizzying racial and personal insults have come from all directions, and they're beginning to lose their meaning.Much has been made of the personal pique that animated West's attack on the president: How dare the bellhop at West's hotel Inaugural Weekend wind up with tickets to the event itself when West didn't? How could Obama stop returning his calls? West's animus was impossible to miss, and it clearly drove the awful, ad hominem anger of West's invective.The most tragic thing, to me, about West's meltdown was the way he tried to frame it as a universalist defense of poor and…

Not sure if we can beat it

Every couple of months, a reader sends me a link to a blog post denouncing the influence of Master of Fine Arts programs in creative writing, apparently in the conviction that such challenges are rare. Yet surely the only thing more unkillable than MFA programs is the idea that no one dares criticize MFA programs.[. . .]So Mark McGurl's 2009 book, "The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing," actually was rather daring: McGurl presumed to look at the work produced by MFA holders and find it good. He asserted that university creative writing programs have had a profound effect on American fiction in the past 50 years, but he really went out on a limb when he stated that their influence has resulted in "a system-wide rise in the excellence of American literature."Elif Batuman, an American academic and author, does not agree, and in a lengthy review of McGurl's book for the London Review of Books, she laid out her own objections to "…