Truth in Literature
my roommate) is in his bedroom with a group of sickening coeds. He's
a T.A. for a freshman English Comp course at the local college. He's
explaining exactly what makes a good storyhis theory
of the short story. Plot, character developmentall the way down
to the sentence. Blah, blah, fucking blah. The girls listen and giggle
between sips of cabernet.
them a story he published in Skunkwater Review (now defunct).
Some sort of an analogy between an incestuous relationship and a Black
"Can you sense
the tension in each word?" he brags.
One girl whines,
"But I could never come up with such intriguing stories as yours,
Mr. Berg. How do you do it?"
"I live and
observe solemnly," he says.
Mr. Berg is
one course and a thesis short of finishing his MFA. Says he'll finish
this year. That's what he said last year and the year before that.
Says he's real busy serving as Associate Editor for an e-zine called
Explosion!. Reminds me every chance he gets that he's an editor.
Big whoop! That's
what I say.
that his thesis advisor requires all of his MFA students to work on
One time I copied
a Raymond Carver story verbatim and gave it to Numbnuts for consideration
in Explosion!. He wrote a detailed critique, the gist of which
was that the language was so simple as to be insulting to the reader,
and the story was devoid of emotion. Eventually, I fessed up and showed
him the volume of Best American Short Stories. He said he knew
all along and was yanking my chain. That night I caught him conducting
an internet search on Raymond Carver.
Next thing you
know, Numbnuts is an expert on the movement of minimalism in 20th
century literature. Starts offering his female students private tutoring
sessions on the subject, specializing in Carver. So there he is drinking
expensive wine and discussing the literary merits of Carver with pimple-faced
freshmen. Carver's probably puking in his grave.
I write, too.
I don't think very much about format or style, or plot. I've never
even submitted any of my stories and don't plan to, either. I'm just
an auto mechanic, a college dropout who enjoys writing in a journal,
like I'm doing right now.
similarities between my journal entries and the stories Numbnuts writes.
Subject matter, story lines, character names even. His writing is
more polished and flowery than mine, but the similarities are striking.
He receives high praise from his advisor.
aware that I know he sneaks into my room and reads my journal when
I'm not around. Nor does he know that I go into his room and read
his stories before he hands them to his advisor.
I figure all
this sneaking can't be healthy.