Warning: This story is not short on graphic language. If you are offended by such language, please do not continue. Thank you.
Those Who Can’t
It seemed simple: Get the MFA. Teach. Write short stories and novels on the side.
Writing is like breathing to Miriam.
The teaching though, that’s taking blood out of her. These kids think that by writing “fuck” in their poetry they are all that. They write of rapes they’ve never experienced. Sex where some guy demeans them. They write “cock” and “cunt” and “reverse cowgirl” and acts that make her skin crawl, which she can’t believe they’ve ever done. They write of heroin addiction and alcohol bingeing and vomit and seem only to want to shock her— or make a name for themselves.
Gone is self-discovery, epiphany through writing. Instead, it’s Jerry Springer-time, 24/7. She longs for beautiful words and expressions. A well-modulated story that conveys a surprising, evocative message.
Before her Tuesday class, blonde Gina with her pert ponytail and cheerleader smile who wrote about fucking and boys with nasty fingers discovering her clit and teenage pregnancy holds out a page printed from the web.
“Look! It’s published,” she says. “This commenter even says it’s one of the best things he’s ever read.”
Miriam smiles. She tells herself it’s not jealousy that makes her molars meet.
It does, however, cross her mind that maybe it’s too late for her writing.
19 thoughts on “Those Who Can’t”
Great little piece. Glad you raised the challenge to our “pornified” culture. Is what is written honest or mere titillation?
Thanks, David. This was actually created after reading several pieces that seemed like they were just out to shock . And it’s amazing how people respond to the shock as if it is offering something significant and new.
I always hope that writers are moved to write something meaningful. The use of profanity can be meaningful, but it’s not the meaning itself. Tip of the iceberg.
The irony in all of this is the skill it takes to write honest erotic prose seems to be absent from these aspiring writers. It is deuce difficult to write a readable “dirty” story.
It comes from not reading well, I think. Many don’t read at all.
Interesting piece. I agree with the comment about our pornified culture, but also a culture about shock and demeaning ones self or others to get noticed. It’s a culture personified in reality-TV for certain. I feel bad for the teacher, and also the girl. Perhaps she doesn’t see that her writing is more harmful to her and others, than being a good story to publish. Lacking of literary value I guess. Great job.
I’m not trying to sound self-righteous with this confession but I don’t watch reality-TV. It’s never appealed to me. But then, again, no self-righteousness intended, not much TV has appealed to me for a while.
With that, I don’t know/understand how much influence it’s had on writing. I do read that influence to some degree with books where a writer references the shows.
Maybe that’s the part I’m missing in this all. How people are engaged with reality-TV and the Jerry Springer culture and how others react to it.
Thanks, Mandi, for bringing this up. Definitely food for thought!
I don’t actually watch reality TV either; I used to watch a bit. If I watch stuff, besides sports or the news, it’s Netflix. But, the way people treat each other on these reality shows, the manipulating, scheming etc, is why after a few years I haven’t watched it other than the odd show. Shows like the Bachelor and Big brother, and many more that have come & gone, I think effect kids having sexualized & violent idealizations along with video games that aren’t super Mario, but are more and more realistic and violent (not all video games but many). For instance, the pressure for even small girls to be thin, made-up, sexualized, when they are 8 or 9 years old is rampant due to reality TV (Kardashian’s, etc.), and also social media and You-tube, other celebrity culture etc. There’s a song by a country singer, George Canyon. It’s one of my favorite and it’s called “Let them be little,” and of course, talks about letting kids be kids w/o having to face the complexities and sometimes obscenities ofadult-hood too fast. Kids can’t escape it with their peers and rampant social media — they couldn’t when I was in junior high for instance, with ICQ chat, my space, etc. It’s gotten worse. To further this, even though we place so much emphasis on reading-level and learning it early on, many kids read less and less after high school and university. Even in junior high with so many other forms of entertainment available. So, perhaps these ideals found in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Giver,” “Of Mice and Men,” and many other books/ short stories, aren’t valued or remembered as they used to be. I know despite my love for trashy-romance at times, I love to read the classics as this was instilled in me by my Grandpa and parents, e/t from re-reading Tolkien, The Yearling, C.S. Lewis, Louise Carroll, to reading classics I never studied much or disliked in university or high school, only to understand them better. I hated Thomas Hardy Poetry for example, but love many of his books despite them being tragedies. Last thing I’ll note, I’ve been doing a bunch of dating lately, so far struck out, but one of my important questions did guys is always do you read? (On par with you like dogs? You have to like dogs!)
90 percent of guys I’ve ever asked this, even guy friends, don’t read now. They may skim a news story or a sports article online, but even that’s not so common. For me it’s alarming to find out that these 30 something guys haven’t much read since their school textbooks, or only read to further there career. I think this feeds into this a sexualized culture and the needs of the imagination not being met as guys and women read so much less literary work, don’t really read the newspapers even online. We’re so used to quickly scanning something, we lose the vital lessons and details in books and article. Also, if dad & mom or one of them etc. do not value Shakespeare and the values of literature and good coming of age literature (even The Hunger Games, Harry Potter etc), kids are missing something as they grow up as all these important values cannot be conveyed in the ‘movie version’ as they are in books. I loved the Hunger Game movies, but u cannot see how destroyed Katniss really was by the end of the 3rd book. You don’t really know what sacrifices Jones made in the “Giver” or how terrible Atticus’ Client is treated b/c he was a black man, unless you pick up the novel. Even the wonderful black and white movie with Gregory Peck, doesn’t compare. Anyways I’ll stop writing now lol.
I wish you wouldn’t…stop writing that is. This would make a great post, and I’m sorry that other people won’t read the truly relevant stuff you’ve written here.
First, ha, don’t give up on a guy if he only reads for work. He may be pretty fantastic. 😉 Some guys who read only for work don’t have a lot of extra time to read except on vacation. I know this from knowing great guys who just don’t have time. (That’s my advice on your dating life and not part of anything else. Call it Big Sister).
Reading was always valued in my house. My dad, for all of the eleven years I had him, valued reading and he knew I wanted to be a writer. He was friends with with a famous writer and wanted her to be my mentor, but died before he could introduce us.
I know that I fear for writing in the future world, the way I fear for a lot of things. But I hope that there will be great writers who continue to make writing great. That it is not all 50 shades and trash. That reality-tv does not make women expect that they need to read demeaning words to have feeling.
Also, I need to read The Giver!
Keep writing. I would love for your words to be made into a post so that other people can understand what great writing is.
I’ll think on it Sascha! If I have time this week, I’ll come back and link to your post! Glad you liked it. Haha not reading isn’t a deal breaker, but like you said, if a guy does any kind of reading that’s a good sign 🙂 To me it’s sexy lol. Its interesting to find out if they read and what. You can tell a lot. Also, the similar question if you had you time to read, what would you read is a good one. Sometimes guys say I hate reading, others have interesting opinions. Even, for instance, in terms of business books or people skills books that are helpful for anyone in today’s world. My one besties husband is a good guy, they’ve read to their little guy since he was in the womb. He’s nearly 6 months & I decided that besides clothes, blankets etc. at his shower, he needed a baby Bible (to chew on mainly, & learn the basic stories) & also a Beatrix potter anthology. The dad hasn’t read since he finished his electrician degree and received all his levels, but he was most willing to read these fun tales to his baby. The anthology was very heavy & this also impressed him lol. So, I hope as he grows up, little Logan loves them such as “Appley-Dappley Nursery Rhymes’ and ‘The Feirce Bad Rabbit.’ These were mine and my brothers favs. But all of these takes too, teach lessons, imagination, and also teach learning and reading itself. I’m 33 and still have most of Appley Dappley nursery rhymes memorized lol. My brothers too I think. Anyways, good night! 💕😴
Ah, a guy who says he hates reading is a game changer. As is a guy who hates my dog or cat.
Sleep well! 🙂
I do not teach but I have seen this type of writing in modern books. It appeals to the masses. That is why I read a lot of classics.
🙂 Probably a good idea!
Great piece! One of the problems with current lit (especially YA and MG) is that it has been corrupted like the motion picture industry. Twitters MSWL is proof of that. Adults saying they want a YA book full of grit, drug abuse, and an incarcerated father (actual MSWL text) creates an implied demand where there actually isn’t one. Plus the rise of what I call the WattPad culture. Kids, mainly young teens, seeing how far they can push the envelope and still have people read it. It creates a false sense of “teen culture.” This carries over for people because its just part of their nature now. I know its really hard for my son to find books he likes because he doesn’t enjoy reading a lot of what is “popular”.
Wow. I hate that that’s on a wishlist for any publisher.
Yes, I agree with your viewpoint of the WattPad culture. On a sidenote, I think it’s produced some very bad writing and the consumers don’t seem to realize the difference and support anyway.
Likewise, I think it was Wattpad that brought us 50 Shades of Grey which was bad writing, that has proliferated.
Unfortunately/fortunately? a lot of adults are reading YA (I’m included). However, this is a *YA* genre and I would hope that publishers would give a nod to the intended readers rather than the adults with their wishlists.
Adults can read anything. Personally I much prefer the YA that reads as if it’s intended for a YA audience and deals with teenagers finding their path into adulthood, not navigating sex, drugs and whatever.
I am one of those strange adults that still watches kids tv programming and reads YA, MG, and kids books. So full of pure unadulterated ideas…at least those really written for the audience.
Fifty shades of smut was brought to us by fanfiction.net. Its a twilight fanfic. My son has friends that “publish” on Wattpad and he says “oh cool” then comes home and laughs at them because they don’t even pass regular English and yet think they are writers.
What gets me is when people (including parents) say “stop treating the MG and YA readers as little kids.” Um…there is a huge difference in development between a 12-13 year old and a 17-18 year old…yet they are both YA. Even then we acknowledge that adults have different tastes, but teens are all grouped into one and spoon-fed formulaic stories of romance, angst, depression, etc.
We got into a discussion this weekend on how funny he thinks it is that people almost expect and want teens to be depressed or sexually active since that’s how they promote them. Now mind you, some are, even in his group of friends (not pregnant though). There were three pregnant girls in his 7th grade. It is like a rite of passage.
We need to stop creating a demand where there wasn’t one and go back to letting kids be kids. When I was a kid if we wanted those kind of stories we went to the adult section…you couldn’t find it in the kids reading books.
my youngest son listens to rap music and I don’t understand the lure of the lyrics that objectify women and are so repetitive makes our dog sigh.
lol love that your dog would sigh. I don’t listen to a lot of rap music as, you’re right, I think it tends to denigrate women. We have enough obstacles without that!