52 Faces suggested that she doesn’t like “literary fiction” and hates literary magazines and short stories, as well as MFA writing. I have to say that in some respects, I disagree. While I may not be impressed with this year’s StorySouth Million Writers Award nominees, largely because all of these stories are pretty boring, even if they are good, I think there are some amazing short stories out there. As for the StorySouth selections, I don’t see the point of several of them, such as Steinur Bell’s “The Whale Hunter,” and Nadia Bulkin’s (a very Russian name) “Intertropical Convergence Zone.” After finishing these two, I didn’t feel inspired or interested in what I just read. In contrast, reading Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain” is a constant reminder of the power of the short story. In 4 pages, he creates something incredible. Nabokov also creates something amazing in “That in Aleppo Once…”.
To address the issue of MFA writing: it’s been said by many people, so I don’t recall whom I’m quoting, that people who get an MFA end up publishing stories that are structurally sound, but boring. They’re all the same. That may be true, but there are writers who have completed their MFAs who are amazing. John Irving is one of them. Michael Chabon is another. Maybe they are exceptions, because there are many many writers out there who have MFA degrees and are struggling to publish, or are published but not renowned. These people may be the ones who are talked about as structurally sound but boring. I don’t know. All I know is that I applied to MFA programs so that I could meet other writers and write for 2 years. I didn’t apply to MFA programs for the degree or the prestige (I mean the cachet one gets in the teaching industry from graduating from a place like Iowa).
Yes, most of the fiction I’ve read in literary magazines lately has been dull.