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Who do the kids in contemporary writing workshops emulate?
October 30, 2007 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Who's the Carver of today? That is, who do the kids in contemporary writing workshops emulate? Supposedly, in the 50's into the 60's it was Hemingway. From the 60's and 70's it was Donald Barthelme. The 80's and 90's was the reign of Carver. Has anyone taken over?

Yes, these are crass generalizations, but what I'm interested in is perception.
posted by Kattullus to Writing & Language (23 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a kid in writing workshop. I would say that among the favorites today are George Saunders, John Barth, David Foster Wallace
posted by nameless.k at 2:41 PM on October 30, 2007


Interesting question - I'll be intrigued to see what the consensus is on this one. I've wondered a few times how many writing students are imitating George Saunders these days.
posted by billysumday at 2:43 PM on October 30, 2007


I'm guessing there's a bunch of Palahniuk followers too.
posted by drezdn at 2:48 PM on October 30, 2007


I would say David Foster Wallace and Zadie Smith.
posted by mattbucher at 3:17 PM on October 30, 2007


Saunders and Palahniuk in my circles, with the occasional nod to Annie Proulx
posted by craven_morhead at 3:19 PM on October 30, 2007


david foster wallace.
posted by duende at 4:19 PM on October 30, 2007


Let us not forget Dave Eggers.
posted by princesspathos at 4:28 PM on October 30, 2007


In my writing class there are people trying to be George Orwell.
posted by divabat at 4:42 PM on October 30, 2007


I was writing workshops in the 90s and would have said David Foster Wallace then... and Dave Eggers I would have thought would be a result of such writing workshops.
posted by mdn at 5:42 PM on October 30, 2007


i was in workshops about 5 years ago and the nonfiction kids loved eggers and gourevitch. i don't know who the fiction kids tried to be.

i myself was trying to be hemingway, but many were trying to be david sedaris.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:04 PM on October 30, 2007


My not-very-informed impression is that I don't think there is a Carver of today. I think the literary world is more decentralized than it was in Carver's day; there's a proliferation of small presses that did not exist then, and a lot of interesting work coming out of those presses, but few real "titans" of contemporary literature. The writers that have been named so far (Wallace, Saunders, Eggers) are so idiosyncratic and stylized that the only people emulating them are fools.
posted by jayder at 6:06 PM on October 30, 2007


Nobody's trying to be Bukowski anymore?
posted by vito90 at 6:34 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ha, I would have guessed Saunders.

For what it's worth, I think Carver is more "80s" than "80s and 90s." When I was in high school (1986-1989) everyone wanted to write like Carver. When I was in a writing workshop (1993-94) I don't remember there being any dominant model; the people in my program wrote in widely varying styles. But by that time I don't remember Carveriana being one of them.

One thing I do know -- any attempt to imitate David Foster Wallace ends in bad parody David Foster Wallace. I don't think it's ever been done well.
posted by escabeche at 6:46 PM on October 30, 2007


One thing I do know -- any attempt to imitate David Foster Wallace ends in bad parody David Foster Wallace.

I think even David Foster Wallace is a parody of David Foster Wallace now.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 7:17 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


David Schickler and Dave Sidaris from my experience.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:49 PM on October 30, 2007


I think it is correct that there isn't a single dominant voice out there. Eggers and Foster Wallace exert an influence, but I'm not sure we could put them in the same class as Hemingway or even Carver.

Bukowski and Carver are still relevant. There are cults of Denis Johnson and Kerouac and Salinger. Nabokov.

I think Garcia Marquez maintains a strong influence over this generation.
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 8:04 PM on October 30, 2007


Writing that reminded me about how lame writing workshops are. Like in the movie "Kicking and Screaming" when someone profoundly says, "He's like Humbert Humbert mixed with Holden Caufield, and a little Hundred Years of Solitude," and you see the professor in the background rolling his eyes.
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 8:11 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've also noticed a lot of kids trying, consciously or subconsciously, to sound like This American Life and the like. Trying to be funny without being really funny.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:20 PM on October 30, 2007


From people around me who've been in writing workshops lately there are two more votes for George Saunders and one more for David Foster Wallace.
posted by Kattullus at 9:40 PM on October 30, 2007


Like in the movie "Kicking and Screaming" when someone profoundly says, "He's like Humbert Humbert mixed with Holden Caufield, and a little Hundred Years of Solitude," and you see the professor in the background rolling his eyes.

Yes, the old "bastard love child review," the favorite of lazy critics everywhere: "[hot young novelist]'s work is what we'd have if William Burroughs and Jane Austen had a bastard love child."

It's funny that that's a joke in a movie. I've been amazed at how many reviewers seriously think that is an enlightening way to describe a book.
posted by jayder at 10:56 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


God this thread depresses me. Carver and his ilk were bad enough, but Saunders? Christ, he's decent, but only barely. We're in for a coming world of hurt.
posted by OmieWise at 5:49 AM on October 31, 2007


The fiction writers in my program are overwhelmed with wanting to be Cormac McCarthy, and with inventing appropriate blue collar pasts for themselves.

There's definitely not a central poet-model, though when I lived in Pittsburgh it seemed like everyone wrote in the plainfaced traditional narrative style of Lynn Emanuel.
posted by soviet sleepover at 9:30 AM on October 31, 2007


Thank you vito90 for making me smile.

In my experience, to repeat what's been said, there are a lot of David Foster Wallace imitators, as well as Palahniuk-ites, and followers of the whole McSweeney's school of style.

Also, though, I've observed a lot of people writing not after the fashion of a single writer, but writing with a cinematic approach, appropriating tools of pacing and visualized metaphors, not to mention a lot of medias in res from film.

I've seen a few "kids" attempting (though, with mixed results) to imitate the stream-of-consciousness-meets-hypertext style of Mark Danielewski, as well. Not unrelated, perhaps, to the notion that writers are increasingly unable to ignore the role of film and other media technology in mediating reader reactions.
posted by myrrh at 6:21 PM on October 31, 2007


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