The Novel According to Bezos

Megan Marz in The Baffler:

WHEN MARK MCGURL published his history of creative writing programs in 2009, reviewers described it in terms like “welcome and overdue.” The Program Era finally codified what everyone involved anecdotally knew: the MFA was the defining institution of recent U.S. fiction.

Shortly after its publication, the editors of n+1 proposed an alternative tagline for contemporary literary history. While the university creative writing program was dominant, they acknowledged, it was still only one half of a binary: “MFA vs. NYC,” as they christened it in an editorial that mushroomed into an essay anthology. The argument was that MFA programs and New York publishing were separate if interdependent economic systems that gave rise to their own cultures and encouraged different kinds of writing. An MFA writer might publish a book of short stories in the hope of securing a teaching job. An NYC writer might focus on selling a novel for money they could live on—and, with that goal in mind, veer inexorably toward clear prose and tight plotting.

Absent from these accounts was the internet, toward which more and more writing was then and is still orienting itself. Like alignment with MFA or NYC, this orientation might happen on the level of form or on the level of marketing. In the latter case, as the scholar Simone Murray writes, authorship has “shifted from a largely invisible process undertaken in private” to “an ongoing public performance punctuated by periodic book publications.” At the same time, internet-born forms have risen to the level of art in the hands of some writers and, in the hands of others, started to infiltrate traditional books.

More here.