Who’s cross with who in the world of books: Ryan, Fay and Kazuo


Lots of people are cross with Ryan Boudinet for the frank opinions expressed in his recent essay Things I can say about MFA writing programs now that I no longer teach in one:

I recently left a teaching position in a master of fine arts creative-writing program. I had a handful of students whose work changed my life. The vast majority of my students were hardworking, thoughtful people devoted to improving their craft despite having nothing interesting to express and no interesting way to express it. My hope for them was that they would become better readers. And then there were students whose work was so awful that it literally put me to sleep.

You can read the whole piece here:


Ho hum. As well as the industry of MFA in Creative Writing there’s now an industry in dissing the MFA in Creative Writing.

A group of grumps is cross with Fay Weldon for her slighting remarks about ebook readers suggesting that “literary” writers need to dumb down if they want to be read by these lowbrows – ah, Fay, a shadow of her former witty self.  D.J. Taylor has a more nuanced view of the whole kerfuffle. While he accepts that there is a fair amount of trash around in the ebook world, he goes on to say:

The “literary novel” in this country would sell far more copies and attract far more attention beyond the books pages if it didn’t habitually come served up in a light sauce of snootiness – if, in fact, it didn’t refer to itself as the literary novel in the first place. On the other hand, Ms Weldon’s advocacy of simpler ebook versions takes this divide a step further by alleging that there are, in effect, two audiences nowadays – serious readers on the one hand and Kindle-addled lame-brains on the other.


And Ursula Le Guin is cross with Kazuo Ishiguro for slighting fantasy writers when talking about his new book The Buried Giant:

Mr Ishiguro said to the interviewer, “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?”

Well, yes, they probably will. Why not?

It appears that the author takes the word for an insult.

To me that is so insulting, it reflects such thoughtless prejudice, that I had to write this piece in response.

Fantasy is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality.



There’s something for everyone here. What’s your favourite literary stoush?

Image:  http://public-domain.zorger.com/a-book-of-nonsense/068-cartoon-woman-bull-fighting-cow-public-domain.php


4 thoughts on “Who’s cross with who in the world of books: Ryan, Fay and Kazuo

  1. What a smorgasbord of complaints!
    I hope Fay Weldon will be forced to eat her words. I can’t see why the medium (in this case ebooks) should be blamed for those readers who choose boring, cookie-cutter fiction over the more challenging kinds, nor for publishers who continue to push trashy fiction in print as well as digital forms. And good on you, Ursula Le Guin – one of my all-time favourite writers – for such a spirited, intelligent defence of the genre she’s done wonders with!
    Oh, and thanks for the link to ‘Book View Cafe’. It looks like a site worth exploring further.

    1. Book View Cafe is Ursula Le Gun’s blog. I can understand her exasperation with the loose use of the word “fantasy”. I have to confess it’s a turn off for me but I did read ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ and I thought it was wonderful. The D.J. Taylor article on the ebook issue is really worth reading.

  2. I was impressed by ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ too. My favourite is ‘The Earthsea Trilogy’. It’s one of those books i go back to time and time again.
    With regard to the ebook issue, I’m not sure if digital publishing has changed the divide between popular and literary fiction in a significant way, apart from the numbers. It’s too early to be sure, of course, but in my view the divide has been there for a long time, and all that ebooks have done is to increase the number of titles. Of course many of these titles are going to be ‘commercial hackwork’, to borrow a phrase from Ursula Le Guin.

  3. Yes, Fay Weldon’s suggestion that “literary” writers might have to write a different version to reach ebook readers is rather bizarre, I thought. What would they do? Use easier words? Simplify the plot? So why would they? Really I think the issue with ebooks is that it’s so much easier to put put an ebook that an awful lot of derivative rubbish gets out there. All that means is more noise in the system. Like you, I think there is just as much good stuff being written and that digital is just an extra format.

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