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This defense mechanism is hardly unique to writers.
At a certain point I said, rather foolishly, “I don’t get the point of this discussion.
It sounds like we’re just tearing down the writer.” My point wasn’t to defend Franzen, who certainly didn’t need my help.
But the harsh truth looming over students of writing, as compared with those studying law or medicine or engineering, is that only a fraction will find success in their chosen field—that is, will go on to publish books—and most of these will have to discover other means of supporting themselves and their families.
Just graduating from a writing program doesn’t make you an author, let alone a celebrated one. I myself was a schmuck in grad school: insecure, needy, and provocative in ways that only years of therapy would reveal.
But Franzen clearly had a point to make, and while he seemed somewhat irritable as a person, his prose was lucid and thoughtful.
It was shocking to me, therefore, that our professor—himself a young novelist—spent a good portion of class tearing into the rhetorical excesses of the piece, with the enthusiastic help of other students.
Nearly all the students have smartphones, which they bring to class.
Nearly all of them spend more time staring at screens than at books.
In fact, they were more likely to talk about a movie or TV show, or what they just posted on Facebook, than the last great book they read.
Dubbing students 'entitled' for having opinions on the editorial choices of one 'best of' publication seems a tad extreme. The ten syntactical inconsistencies in the first three pages alone which made it a tiresome read?