Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review: MFA in a Box or Rick Boxed Out

Philosophically Phunny

The book MFA in a Box explains why I don't have an MFA -- I don't get philosophy. I don't get the nuance of the nuance of the pinprick of a needle on the flapping of a butterfly's wing in Brazil that forms a tornado in Kansas in a week and how that affects your characters. John Rember has written a book about why writers write books. He has delved deep into the mythological stories to support his case. It is a case that some people will flock to like bees to my marigolds: others will run to Anne Lamott, StephenKing, and Donald Maass for their thoughts on digging into a characters psyche in more precise and succinct language.

He could have easily written, most writers don't dig deep enough. They are unable or afraid to dig deep enough into the psyche of the character to expose the hell in their soul, and then they don't go below, into the very fires of Hell to identify the source of the fire that rages, and that, writers don't sift through the ashes of that fire to parse out that infinitesimally small glowing ember that explains why not getting a blue fire truck for their third Christmas drove that character to slaughter nineteen women dressed in blue during months in which a blue moon occurred. Or, something like that.

Okay, he makes some good points, but his tortuously elaborate explanations sometimes drove me to drink, and I'm supposed to be off diet sodas. That is part of the reason it took two weeks to read this book -- trying to pay close attention, because I must be missing something. But, I agree with his overall premise: whether you are trying to emulate Jonathan Franzen, writing whirling waltz of his own creation, or pound out a genre book that moves to its own predetermined beat to satisfy the masses that like that familiar beat, both are served by understanding their characters to a level deeper than what we are routinely spoon-fed. I'd fail his class, but I'll give his book four-thumbs up.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the review, Rick. I've been reading bits of this book at a time. Maybe I'll be compelled to finish it now. I know why I quit the MFA program I was in--too expensive, a waste of time, and not what I was looking for. Additionally, some professors were too full of themselves and not very helpful.

Rick Bylina said...

My pleasure, but it really did take me two tortuous weeks to read this book. I did like the Hemingway example though, and his crazy uncle. He also had a nice stretch in the end writing the same thing over and over again with different emphasis. Onward I struggle through the writing wars.

Kw mccabe said...

Hmmm... ty for the summary - perhaps I don't need to force it down my own throat now? lol

Robin Cain said...

Just goes to show you how books can be a purely personal matter. I read this one cover-to-cover in a couple days. LOVED it!

Unknown said...

I got it as a kindle freebie. Thanks for the review. I'll put it on my list of books to read in 2013. I think I have 350 on the list already. I'll probably get to it after I complete all of my New Years resolutions, read all those books, and find the cure for cancer.