December 6, 2011

On Mark McGurl's "The Program Era" (Part 3)

Writers and readers of the seemingly ubiquitous sub-genre of literature often called Flash Fiction may be pleased to find McGurl’s study features a brief yet admirable attempt to help explain the phenomenon of its steady rise to acceptance these days as a valid literary form in academe. The trotted-out consensus of Flash Fiction appealing to today’s abbreviated attention spans I personally find tired and unsatisfactory for a host of reasons—mostly because writers who read and write Flash (like myself) tend to still read and write longer works of fiction, to say nothing of why poetry hasn’t enjoyed a popular resurgence if this is indeed the case. Not surprisingly, McGurl offers up the institutional perspective of Flash’s formal appearance in American letters, which I find a much more original and plausible take on this indeterminate narrative form's greater visibility.

McGurl traces the origins of American Flash Fiction in the academy back to Raymond Carver and the beginning of what he refers to in The Program Era as the “lower-middle-class modernism,” what is more derisively known as “K-mart Realism” but is usually designated by critics as “Dirty Realism.” But McGurl’s terminology situating this movement in distinct socio-economic terms is crucial for reflecting the new stratification within Higher Education in post-war America. The enrollment spike of soldiers returning home coupled with the founding of new colleges and universities to meet the demand from the Baby Boomers diversifies the collegiate ranks and lets the creative writing programs tap into a “dialectic of shame and pride.” This dialectic paves the way for not only Carver to turn working-class drudgery into creative writing success (thanks to attending classes at Chico State by John Gardner) but allow writers like Sandra Cisneros to enter the Iowa Workshop as marginalized ethnic voices and emerge with their own creative style of what McGurl calls “institutionalized individuality.” The effect of institutional programs on Carver and Cisneros, McGurl claims as primary examples, are evident in the minimalist modes of the collections Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? and The House on Mango Street, respectively, though it is the latter that he sees as coming into a distinct form, “miniaturism,” that will eventually work its way into long “maximalist” forms such as her novel, Caramelo.

The Program Era suggests, then, Flash is a transitional narrative (or a narrative transition?)—something which I’ve often considered myself—whose purpose in the strictly academic vein of creative writing is to either demarcate that which is not provided for the reader or to lead toward the creation of other long(er) works normally embraced by the academy and, perhaps, by writers and readers of a more affluent socio-economic background. This may also account in some way for why modern and contemporary segmented novellas, for instance, remain kept aside on the far periphery of literature courses and creative workshop considerations or are deemed to be “experimental” in value.

November 30, 2011

On Mark McGurl's "The Program Era" (Part 2)

As I alluded to in my last post, one of the more discernable omissions from McGurl’s study is the proliferation of the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing, though I want to make clear I hardly think it’s a shortcoming of the book given how these programs are a relatively recent phenomenon in the academy and their impact on American literature is still being debated. When Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont (of which I’m a graduate) began its intensive residency model in 1963, it effectively created the nation’s first low-res MFA program that more institutional departments are now starting to incorporate alongside their traditional programs of Creative Writing study. The beginning of the Goddard model, however, would seem to fit nicely into McGurl’s Program Era history, particularly how it follows the original concept forwarded by Middlebury College’s renowned Bread Loaf Conference in 1926 and offers a discernable alternative to the institutionally rigorous semester-long Iowa Workshop model: students meet and write at a bucolic countryside campus for about a week, workshop, then return home to pursue their own course of study, sending work by proxy to their selected advisor for feedback, and conduct their own workshops with novice writers for teaching credit. These are only the broad strokes, to be sure, but they do stand in stark contrast to the sort of departmental machinations at Iowa that McGurl outlines.

With the Goddard model in mind, it appears the spread of such low-res programs today is an offshoot of the anti-institutional impulse McGurl details in his look at Ken Kesey’s open disdain of Wallace Stegner’s method at Stanford and the Merry Pranksters taking the workshop experience to the open road with their school bus Further during the 1960’s. As the sort of open “experiment” Further represented (and sometimes courted disaster with, according to McGurl), the low-res MFA’s selling point as an anti-institutional institution with no real spatio-geographic bounds other than the campus epicenter where writers occasionally converge is seductive enough for the self-invested writer. If one is confident in their abilities as a creative writer—as I believed I was when I started my graduate studies—the value of such a program is derived from its lack of interference but without the instruction nurturing completely those egocentric Tom Wolfe impulses which mark the beginning of McGurl’s Program Era. That the student is held in check at a distance from his or her advisor (an established, published writer) while operating on a virtual campus of the self where the idea of the “department” has vanished is an idea rooted in the chapter “The Social Construction of Unreality” whose time may have finally arrived in Higher Ed for many reasons. But the illusion of total individualism for graduate credit, something which McGurl thinks Kesey was blind to in his antagonism with Stegner, remains from the counterculture ethos, having not been altogether banished from campus. Further may, in fact, be refueling for yet another roadtrip in Higher Ed.

November 16, 2011

On Mark McGurl's "The Program Era" (Part 1)

Writing a single blog post on Mark McGurl's award-winning The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Harvard UP, 2009), I have to say after a fairly entranced reading of it, seems unfair given the scope of this study in not only mapping the trajectory of creative writing studies from its earliest beginnings in progressive education to its current-day entrenchment in the university and college cirriculum but tying this to the novel proposition that American fiction is supremely better for it today (despite popular grousing to the contrary). There is much here of clear importance for anyone studying creative writing -- and perhaps for those who are not creative writers themselves in academia -- but I'll try to work my way through, however haphazardly, at least a few posts about this study over the next few weeks.

From the first sentence of the preface, I must note what was my immediate admiration for McGurl in the ambition of his following statement:

"This book argues that the rise of the creative writing program stands as the most important event in postwar American literary history, and that paying attention to the increasingly intimate relation between literary production and the practices of higher education is the key to understanding the originality of postwar American fiction." (ix)

As a creative writer, even before I reach McGurl's opening case study on Vladimir Nabokov as the archetypal anti-program writer-who-hates-to-teach and what this means about his Lolita, the idea alone of the institution being of fundamental importance to everything I've read in contemporary American literature and written is wonderous and frightening at the same time. Of course, as far as the latter is concerned, I'm referring to that notion of factory-line creative writing the biggest detractors of the Iowa Workshop usually refer to (and McGurl, to be sure, will delve into) or, on a more modest level, the traditional friendly-workshop model that was the basis for most of my own undergraduate and graduate experiences like most creative writers; but, regarding the former, it's as if McGurl is about to confirm a quiet, nagging suspicion we've all had for some time: that creative writing in Higher Ed has been, still is, and will continue to be a strange, contradictory proving ground of artistic achievement thriving in the drudgery of American institutional academia.

That his study will also "illuminate and appreciate postwar American literature by placing it in this evolving market context, examing how the university stepped forward in the postwar period both to facilitate and to buffer the writer's relation to the culture industry and the market culture more broadly" suggests how, like it or not, writers today may owe much to Higher Ed for recognizing both its cultural potential and capital profitability, allowing us to write our novels and stories as either an "experiential commodity" or a gesture of "self-tourism" (15). Given the recent development and spread of low-residency MFA programs in this country and elsewhere (of which I was a part of, and may address later), McGurl has poised this well-timed study to fully explain and clarify what he will refer to as the "conventional unconventionality" of American fiction which shows no signs of slowing down in the realm of post-secondary education.

November 12, 2011

Beyond Cannery Row: On V.S. Naipul's "Steinbeck in Monterey"

Few writers of supreme talent in this country and others have ever enjoyed the privilege of being true living legends in both print and public, and even fewer of those have been accorded a lasting posthumous celebrity where entire communities are devoted to keeping the memory of the author and the work alive. Perhaps as an addition to Barthes’ notion of the death of the author, V.S. Naipul’s travelogue essay “Steinbeck in Monterey” (1970; collected in The Writer and the World, 2002) exemplifies this rare public worship in America, documenting the efforts of the residents of Monterey, California to revive the tourist trade there around their acclaimed native son, particularly the squalid, near-deserted Cannery Row of John Steinbeck’s 1945 titular novel. “A writer is in the end not his books,” Naipul establishes first and foremost, “but his myth. And that myth is in the keeping of others.” Unfortunately for the residents of Monterey (and Steinbeck’s literary legacy?), the myth is hardly benign as he sees it. The economic concerns of their town almost pale in comparison to the cultural baggage of a communal memory which conflicts with the author’s former attitudes, specifically Steinbeck’s apathy and dismissal of the Row after leaving it for New York City to become a major figure in American letters. Even the unintended consequences of The Grapes of Wrath in longstanding public perception of Californians’ mistreatment of “Okies” like the Joads may create impediments to move communities forward, if we take Naipul’s concluding interactions with a local real estate developer at face value. This is the other side of creative writing seldom visited, and somewhat paradoxical: the idea that great literary works, great authors can in fact be harmful in their short-sightedness, at least if their readers don’t know the moment when to let go.

Despite Naipul’s inherent critique of American literary sentimentality retained by twentieth-century readers, tempered with his opinion that the author himself deserves “some responsibility” for the quagmire Monterey found itself in following Steinbeck’s death in 1968, I imagine most established writers do not pay attention to the temporal concerns of their work’s influence, even as they may or may not consider any ethical responsibilities to the text (accurate cultural representations, etc.), to say nothing of possibly revisiting the effects of their works in the world of living readers. Indeed, creative writers could read into Naipul’s notion that Steinbeck, were he alive, should be pressed into resolving the problem in Monterey in some way, as farfetched as that may seem. No writer sets about a work as potential popular lore—and nor should they, either, at the risk of self-aggrandizement (which there are always plenty of opportunities for later, of course). Yet “Steinbeck in Monterey” reminds us, in that characteristically bitter delivery of Naipul’s which critic Edward Said always found fault with, that addressing the potential negative public effect(s) of their work may soon become the new standard grievance for today’s authors to wrestle with.

October 31, 2011

Does "The Madwoman" Belong in the Workshop?

It’s a well-known occupational hazard for creative writing instructors that the workshop today carries a certain risk of unintended consequences, at least regarding how they, deliberately or not, interfere with a student’s writing potential or creative freedom. We know this can be accomplished in any number of ways, with responses to drafts, assigned readings as models and the overall classroom atmosphere being just a few of the more evident. What is less evident are the lessons shared of the creation of a text itself that a student writer may not be aware of and runs counter to his or her creative identity.

After reading Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s groundbreaking feminist study of nineteenth-century literature by women, The Madwoman in the Attic (1979), and re-familiarizing myself with the construction of patriarchal texts and their effects on writers of both sexes, I immediately asked myself whether the contemporary workshop has addressed any of these issues for women who see themselves as writing-as-woman. It hasn’t escaped my attention, over the last several years, the workshops and introductory creative writing courses I taught have been predominantly attended by women; and of these attendees, it has been frequently (but not always, of course) the women who soldier on through the usual difficulties for a novice writer and voice the loudest concerns about whether or not they are actually accomplishing anything. This is not to say the men in my workshops are inherently lackadaisical about creative writing, but Madwoman has me considering the difficulties—at least for women—of not only writing from a strictly male-centered tradition that our canon still emphasizes to some degree but if I should address this problem—and not out of academic responsibility, either, but for those grander purposes which a creative writing workshop is designed to fulfill.

Do I give my women students Gilbert and Gubar’s first three chapters, with particular emphasis on “Infection in the Sentence,” then, and awaken them to the horrible truth of what they may think are their original, feminine writings? Should this theoretical background come before I teach the conventions of genre, or are instructors obliged to make their women students grasp and expose their limitations before springing the bad news? Personally, for introductory courses, I’m more inclined to have students chip away at the patriarchy with the reading selections I give them and let them create their own consciousness of the problem based on craft issues; this semester I’ve used Sylvia Plath’s Ariel as a primary model for our poetry assignments, as well as Gary Lutz’s Stories in the Worst Way, which, for those not familiar with his work, employs a distinct gender-neutral syntax for male and female narrators with a heaping dose of sexual ambiguity. I tend to save the Dead White Males for literature courses when I have no other choice (and if I’m teaching Flash Fiction in the workshop, Hemingway has got to come in there). As for the rest, it may seem a huge trepidation to have women students as novices become the next Plath or Charlotte Perkins Gilman—unless, that is, a specific workshop was set up with that intent and established from day one. Otherwise, even Gilbert and Gubar concede that “there is no real reason why a woman writer cannot tell traditional kinds of stories, even if they are about male heroes and even if they inevitably fit into male-devised generic structures” (68). If there is such harm afoot in a workshop to turn women writers into masculine subordinates, it may not be as great as one thinks, provided an instructor does not deliberately champion the production of a specific male-oriented text through various methods and designs. But perhaps that still doesn’t make things equitable in the long-run for a woman student’s writing life.

The implementation of Madwoman’s introductory chapters is an intriguing proposition for the workshopper to challenge women students, though one that shouldn’t be taken so lightly and executed without thoughtful deliberation of the skill level of that class, including its overall demographic. How this material could have bearing on writing assignments for each particular literary genre and whether it would be of any use to male students who want to write female-centered texts are certainly issues to consider further.

October 24, 2011

On Madison Smartt Bell's "Narrative Design"

Madison Smartt Bell’s Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form (1997) is perhaps, to borrow from the author’s introduction, the first real “craft-centered” working guide to narrative fiction I’ve ever picked up, as I’m fairly certain I have more holistically-minded creative writing guides such as Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones in my workshopping history as both an undergraduate and graduate student. Whereas texts like Goldberg’s attempt to tap more into the Zen of self-directed writing—or, to be more practical, establishing the non-judgmental and creatively favorable conditions one may attempt to write in—Bell dispenses with the How-to and cuts to the chase: the work itself is all. We are given a selection of stories by established and well-known authors (including Mary Gaitskill, Ernest Gaines, Percival Everett, and William T. Vollmann) divided between “Linear Design” and “Modular Design” of narrative; then each story is annotated with brief notes at each phrase or area of interest, including a summary analysis of the usual conventions, including Plot, Character, Tone, Dialogue, Design, Theme, etc. The result is the story has been “workshopped” with both a precise eye for technique and a greater appreciation of the larger craft trends within the story which happen as a result. Naturally, my initial concern upon reading Bell was, “Would this approach succeed with a story by someone who wasn’t Ernest Gaines?” and so forth; for novice writers looking to learn anything from other novice writers in addition to the professionals, however, the number of ways a particular narrative could be dissected in this regard could be fine-tuned to meet the aims and level of the course itself without sacrificing any of the analytical rigor involved.

Narrative Design, then, is not much of a starting point for writers—but it could be a decent place to have students get their hands messy in without so much as writing a single creative word of their own. It eschews the sort of in-chapter exercises normally seen in mainstay creative writing course textbooks like Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction, et. al., and assumes the model method will pay dividends once the writer recognizes his or her own idea of creative writing. Following a pointed critique of the Iowa Workshop style’s tendency towards “groupthink” drafts, Bell indeed refers to this “inner process” of writing which the Iowa Workshop looks to subdue in favor of, as he sees it, classroom draft conformity and harsh judgment for those who stray off the path. Regarding this point, there is not much elaboration, other than further explaining the idea of creative writing as self-hypnosis, drawing upon an improvisional-spontaneous live reading by Gordon Lish using only four words printed on separate cards (which later would be published as his My Romance). This is a rather large jump to make from what is already soft ground, to be sure, and one that may have required Bell to delve into his inner Goldberg more—especially since he stipulates that this process should always remain private, shielded from classmates and instructors alike. Still, the upshot of Bell’s approach is apparent: the writer being allowed to select his or her own best narrative design so it may ultimately form the crucial “unconscious apprehension of [effective narrative] structure” that so skillfully evades workshop instruction.

October 2, 2011

On Alain Robbe-Grillet’s "For a New Novel"

Creative writers today may not know what to make of a well-known collection of essays on the state of the contemporary novel that has doubtless been rendered somewhat obsolete by the progression of critical theory of every single Post- over the last few decades. Adding a frank admission of lukewarm public and critical reception to the mix doesn’t strike a bold note in hindsight, either. “My novels have not been received,” confesses Alain Robbe-Grillet in 1955, “upon publication in France, with unanimous enthusiasm; that is putting it mildly.” Of course, Robbe-Grillet in his For a New Novel (1963) is not necessarily writing of the contemporary novel as we Americans know it but the nouveau roman of France about to arrive during the 1960’s and 70’s. That distinction aside, however, I acknowledge Robbe-Grillet’s better intentions. As he is dourly optimistic about overthrowing the perceived irrelevance of a progressive fiction as the New Novel, such as his own semi-notorious and parodied Jealousy, his immediate admission of not being a theoretician may preclude any attempt to elaborate upon and elevate his work, or at least seal it under the big glass dome of “Art for Art’s sake” (though he does qualify that notion in “On Several Obsolete Notions” as being acceptable). It occurs to me, at least, the problems with “style and construction” in the 50’s remain with us in the form of, for instance, David Foster Wallace’s hyper-footnotes as a narrative limn; and For a New Novel, in this respect, hasn’t outlived its usefulness in the creative writing curriculum, at least in its readdressing the crucial problem about novel-writing: those lazy machines (to borrow Umberto Eco’s term) run much lazier when notable instruction manuals like Wallace’s Infinite Jest or, going further back, Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans may have no real instructions to follow.

For a New Novel appears to me a small courtesy on Robbe-Grillet’s behalf to help us out, though we will be left to our own devices in the end. If there are any steadfast notions for novel writers which have existed before Robbe-Grillet put pen to paper, his insistence in “The Use of Theory” that “Each novelist, each novel must invent its own form” can be considered one of the more pertinent in the collection—even if this dictum has likely created in America more failed novels resembling Moby-Dick at its worst instead of anything from the repertoire of vintage Faulkner. Following this in “A Future For The Novel” with literary experimenters as the “the heirs of a tradition”—a problematic suggestion, to be sure—one may be so inclined, despite Robbe-Grillet’s sluggish reader response, to see a bright, rosy future anyway for a cumbersome literary form that more than a few claim died somewhere in the twentieth century. I think Robbe-Grillet’s fashioning of the New Novel as “exploration, not theory” does fit sensibly into the modernist progression of the American novel at least; yet, at the conclusion of these explorations, should writers be in some way make themselves the theoreticians Robbe-Grillet claims they cannot, particularly if they are academic creative writers? Do these writers have a professional if not creative responsibility to implement theory and later explain their novels with it? Since Robbe-Grillet insists “the function of art is never to illustrate a truth... known in advance, but to bring into the world certain interrogations not yet known as such to themselves” (which I can certainly agree with), I imagine his positing serves up more benefits to creative writers outside of academe rather than those who are in it; but, for the latter group, leaving themselves only with “an interplay of agreement and oppositions” may seem an unsatisfactory avenue to revisit with post-modernism’s seemingly endless bounty of texts and meta-texts to draw upon and potentially scatter all over the page.

Robbe-Grillet spends the remainder of these essays tackling the conventions of fiction, sometimes revising his major points along the way, breaking it up with close-ups of master practitioners Italo Svevo, Samuel Beckett, and others. There are any number of instances where he waxes ever-so-close to theory, and such sensible notions as how the contemporary novel is most concerned with “private mental structures” of time and how spatial discontinuity dissolves “the trap of the anecdote” in “Time and Description in Fiction Today” become more attractive aspects in this collection to balance out the less-than-enthralling ideas (i.e., “the only possible commitment for the writer is literature”). The New Novel as Robbe-Grillet knew it then may still be a relic of the recent past if the American post-modern novel hasn’t already superceded it; yet insofar as regarding the whole of For a New Novel itself is concerned, the collection's lasting value here, large or small, for developing American writers may not be the possible intellectual engagement or lack thereof in Robbe-Grillet's non-theoretical theorizing but anticipating the fundamental concerns in commencing the framework of their own version of the New Novel.

October 1, 2011

The Private Life of the Writer

Having made the mistake this summer of acquiring a few DVDs of movie titles I’ve long been fond of to help offset my reading for Ph.D. exams, I wasted no time in adding to my collection my two favorite classics by British director David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, which address the poet-warrior / poet-lover dichotomy in a mutual companionship I’ve always appreciated as a writer. As far as cutting into the mythos of T.E. Lawrence by way of his acknowledged writing prowess, Lean’s Arabia doesn’t shed any more light on that subject than Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom (a tedious reading which I attempted years ago to glean his popular appeal for myself before giving up half-way through); instead, we are treated to a portrait of the writer as a brave creature of public creation, thanks in no small part to media outlets needing a hero to beat the drum of war with, namely the opportunistic Chicago reporter chasing Lawrence down in the desert, “desperate to tell a story.” Three years after Arabia’s release, Lean follows this real-life historical legend with his sensitive, doe-eyed Russian doctor from Boris Pasternak’s famous novel, a different breed of Romantic Warrior who wants nothing to do with war—other than to cure those who have been wounded by it. He seeks to exist by simply living without political entanglements and bureaucratic interference, and accentuated by his own well-known poetry, a prospect which becomes less likely in the growing revolutionary tide of post-Tsarist Russia where privacy quickly becomes the true luxury no one will ever afford again.

The two films make a curious pair of cases in modernity’s malaise impacting the creative writer. Both stories end unhappily for these men in a time of war’s confusion, with Lawrence and Zhivago banished to virtual exile in their respective countries—the difference being, of course, Lawrence lives outside the state where he can (and does) act with reckless impunity in his self-imposed code of valor with fame, while Yuri Zhivago, the reluctant adulterer, is forced to flee and evade within both his own emotions and the borders of a state that now regards him a petty, sentimental bourgeois. These men, however, to borrow Yegref Zhivago’s dismal estimation of his hopelessly idealistic half-brother, are writers living with a noose around their necks, not at all aware of the nature of their predicament. Though products of the advance of modern history, they are, as their antagonists insinuate, never as political as their writing should be. They have their selfish ways to inspire the masses’ own selfish ways, for which the state must ultimately suffer should one subscribe to the thinking of Pasha Antipov, or even the kingdom-building Prince Faisal who, despite his utmost gratitude towards Lawrence, exhorts to his British allies as soon as he leaves stage left, “We are glad to be rid of him, are we not?” And in such fashion, the accolades for these two heros are rendered posthumously by those who never really understood what they were thinking.

Why I keep finding my sympathies being drawn towards Zhivago may have something to do with Lean emphasizing Zhivago’s impulses and writing process leading to what will later be heralded as his “Lara poems” in the film, written at the Varykino estate while in seclusion with Larissa, a perspective lacking in Arabia. In that film, we must take someone else’s word that Lawrence is “a mighty poet,” while in Zhivago, at least we witness the good doctor finding his triumph, albeit briefly, in the inspiration from his secret mistress, the true love of his “private life.” This private life, alternately scolded and prized throughout the movie by various parties, reveals itself in Omar Sharif’s performance as a propensity for staring off, observing minutiae, and intuitive connection-making (i.e., the sound of clothes being ironed which Lean uses to displace Tonya for Lara in Zhivago’s distraction) among other writerly traits, feeding the restlessness of Zhivago the poet. His joy to seek and create in his language is not tempered by the state’s disapproval of it alone (as this can only be mere disapproval to the poet), but by the moral implications of his infidelity serving as catalyst to his imaginative conception, having abandoned a content marriage with Tonya which, in turn, will abandon her and their son to a life outside Russia—a high price to pay for a single book of good poetry, Lean says. Is Zhivago the talented poet also a flawed humanist by circumstance if not a thoughtless, betraying husband? As Allen Tate would profess the poet’s responsibility to his conscience above all else, including society, Zhivago’s agonized decision to give Larissa up to the chiding Komarovsky for securing her safety is the death of his private life—and, hence, writing life—by his own hand. It is an ideal more dramatic than poetic, and a bit self-effacing.

Lean’s perspective on this matter of the writer acquiescing all that is private in Arabia, while not altogether clear since it is the grand military exploits of Lawrence’s character that is of greater concern than the poetic ones, does foreshadow Zhivago somewhat, especially when we see the futile political scribbling of Lawrence in the deserted Arab congress pulled away by the hand of Auda ibu Tayi as he admonishes his stupidity, “I know what is in your heart.” Certainly, no one can say the same about Zhivago. We know the political solution will not fare any better for our conflicted poet-lover, which Lean doesn’t even consider for him. He leaves the frail Zhivago to die at the base of a golden statue saluting the brave workers as he tries to chase down Larissa in the street, the Fallen Woman beautiful to his life because she becomes beautiful by virtue of his poetic method falling into jeopardy in the new Russian modernity. Everything else from his language has already been sealed away in the forsaken writer’s recognition of an unwelcome paradigm yet to come.