Writing class

We read an essay by John Gardner before the writing class last night about interest and truth--how a writer must find what she loves or is obsessed with and write about that. We talked about how Mary Gaitskill's stories are always dark and twisty and uncomfortable and how Tim O'Brien writes again and again about Vietnam (we were also discussing his story, "How to Tell a True War Story," which you really should read if you haven't already). I think it's an important question to ask about stories--what do you love? Because sometimes, I'll read a student story from that class and not understand the impetus for it or not see the writer in it at all. It happens in every class. I mean, truthfully, I don't know most of the students very well. I don't go home with them and sit in their living rooms and talk about books or call them up to chat. But we had one story in the fall class that seemed really far from the writer's possible realm of experience or maybe it was that I couldn't imagine what the writer found interesting about the piece. I can't quite recall what the details were. Lots of times, they'll want to try on different voices or genders, and that has varying degrees of success. It's hard to do, and I find myself sometimes more irritated when white men do it--write a whole novel in the voice of a woman--because I am sexist and I think they have enough of our stuff already. But it does seem weird when you get a story from a 65-year old man written in the voice of a twelve year old girl. It almost never works, because the old man peeks through, "I sat quietly reading my book of poetry by the goddamn lake."

In the current class, we have two men and the rest are women. We went over a story last night that a woman wrote in the voice of a young male. I thought that overall, it was pretty consistent, but one of the guys in the class pointed out a couple of places where he was like, No way a guy would think like this. It was helpful to have the male perspective--like, oh, right, okay, a guy may not phrase something in just this way.

I have art history class tonight. I am hoping to learn something amazing.