Greenfield’s point, less depressive than usual, is that a bunch of overeducated but underaccomplished twits who have been coddled by an educational system overly solicitous to their needs have gotten too big for their britches and taken to petulantly trying to bring their intellectual and professional betters down in a spirit of schadenfreude and projection instead of trying to accomplish something worthwhile themselves. It sounds like a wretched way to live and work, so I’m basically with him, in spirit if not in tone. If I focused with such exclusive discipline on all the shit that’s wrong with some deeply troubled field like the law, I’d probably sound and, worse, feel like a chronically misanthropic depressive myself, and I’d rather not. Nor does the blawgosphere generally attract me to the law in any professional capacity, although I am amazed when a blawgger is able to, as in Ken White’s example, find time for childrearing, the practice of law, blawgging, bipolar disorder, Twitter, and videogaming. As my age peers are supposed to say, I can’t even, in any sense that one might be able to can.
The second link, which I’ll admit I’ve only skimmed, is a lengthier examination of how and why the Canadian academy is an ethical, intellectual, and spiritual clusterfuck. It’s probably just as well that I’m operating on Starbucks time tonight and have a train to catch; I’d waste too much time on this shit if I didn’t, and sometimes it really is about the journey away from Canada’s crappiest, not the destination, which might be better, might be worse, and will definitely be Klamath Falls. It’s definitely just as well that I don’t fundamentally give a shit about my reputation on here, in that I have scruples and points that I’m trying to make but don’t get worried much about who will unreasonably take this shit the wrong way and make fun of me for it as long as I’m doing what I can to reach an audience that’s interested in what I have to say and might be able to make some use of it. Our second link is definitely about Canucks taking themselves too seriously, as one does when one notes one’s PhD on a flyer falsely insinuating that one will be debating Margaret Atwood, i.e., fuming about her in an auditorium in her absence. Hence Greenfield’s and Jonathan Kay’s point about the coddled, obscure, and talentless impotently raging at the accomplished in a futile bid for attention and relevance.
I did notice in Kay’s piece some comments about faculty-on-student sexual harassment in creative writing programs. When male corporals in the RCMP do that to female probies, they’re dressed better. Or at least I can pretend that they are, and yes, I’m familiar with the field uniform, that bitchin’ blue. Shit, we’re talking about the fun Canucks after all. That’s better than the extracurricular Canadian university standard, which seems to be Create to Communicate Diseases. We’ve already got more active voice than Canada’s favorite–pardon, favourite–storytelling friend had about the unfortunate Vancouver thing that happened to the unfortunate Pole. Even so, Northside Juice is a welcome distraction from these other losers. He’s just an ex-Mountie dipshit who got fired for being the Taser buddy in a night-watch squad of rough riders and tried his hand on the motivational speaking and gym coaching circuits; the others are part of a serious structural problem affecting Anglo North American higher education. We’ve got the same bumptious, thin-skinned, combative idiots down here, although probably in different proportions, and probably with less opportunity for the fuckheads to be puffed-up fish in a small, stagnant pond.
There’s a whole fucking lot I could say about this stuff, and if I had the time right now I’d surely say too much. I believe this is the premise of Saved by the Bell, which didn’t sound like it did a thing to inspire confidence in secondary education itself. Homeschool your kids. What I will say, and what is probably a bit more cogent than any of the other disorganized shit I’d think up, is that there’s something wrong with people who need a fucking graduate writing program to convince themselves that they know how to write. I didn’t learn how to write in college or high school, and no, I am not humblebragging. I learned on the internet. That should explain some things. I’m serious, though. This isn’t just native talent; if I read the same insipid mainstream shit that most of my peers seem to read, my writing wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is. It sure as hell isn’t education in the normal institutional sense; most of what I was assigned to read sucked ass as art.
Creative writing programs seem to go to the other extreme, eschewing the bland, workmanlike, regularly unreadable garbage of textbooks and scholarly research in the sciences and the more rigorous humanities for endless overwrought nonsense. Greenfield and Kay are bothered that MFA writer types graduate expecting a market to be in place for whatever they churn out and eager to blame society and better thinkers when there is not, but the MFA’s aren’t entirely wrong: one of the best-read and best-spoken people I’ve ever known finds Karl Ove Knausgaard compelling. Some of them fail commercially due to bad luck, inadequate networks, or not enough industry baksheesh. It isn’t just that the market for MFA house voice bullshit is already saturated; we need something else to explain Jonathan Franzen’s sheer volume, which should have flooded that zone every time he published.
The fundamental problem is dipshits expecting formal praise from formal academics as the determination of their work’s literary worth. This is the same folly and dysfunction that propped up Jian Ghomeshi in his extended time of perv at the CBC. Every socially climbing fuckhead hoped that he’d be the meal ticket they needed to be accepted as serious artists. Not enough Canadians think that fish farming is a respectable occupation that should allow a person to make a decent living and maybe permit enough free time for the focused to make a living and for the love of God Rundel don’t put down that net. As I said about Kevin Vickers years ago, Canada needs more New Brunswick farm kids and fewer Toronto arts scene wankers. And shit, if you’re in it for the easy ass, the pay is better for an RCMP corporal than for yet another surplus MFA adjunct, and the long-term disability benefits for the harassed are great.