Hardcover, 466 pagesBorrowed from the library
Published 2011 (originally 2009)
Read September 2016
by Mark McGurl
This book is not the book I thought it would be. I didn't like it very much as a result. I don't know if that's Mark McGurl's fault or mine. I expected a history of American creative writing programs, their tenets and philosophies, and an overview of how that had shaped American fiction post-1945. Instead I got a series of interpretations of post-1945 American novels I hadn't read, through the lens of the fact that their authors had gone to college and taken creative writing courses. I was looking for something general, but the book turned out to be too specific for me to engage with in an interesting way. I kind of think it's McGurl's fault, because at one point he says his book wants "to track a period in which institutions, not individuals, have come to the fore as the sine qua non of postwar literary production" (368). Except that his book talks about individuals a whole lot and institutions barely at all.
The book also includes a lot of goofy charts. They have a lot of arrows on them, but never illuminated a concept for me. The Venn diagrams were in particular impenetrable, and seem to have been drawn by someone who had no idea how Venn diagrams work.