E a r t h G o a t

"Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man." -- Heidegger

3.15.2005

Poll results

After a week, it's probably safe to say the votes are in.

"Who should be the new director of the workshop?"

Ben Marcus: 41 (53%)
Jim Shepard: 11 (14%)
Richard Bausch: 10 (13%)
Keep looking: 8 (10%)
Sam Chang: 7 (9%)
Total votes: 77

Surprising, no, if only for its decisive result? Of course, there's no way to tell who those 77 folks are. Supposedly you couldn't vote twice. Discuss if you dare!

9 Comments:

At 12:02 PM, March 15, 2005, Blogger Pete said...

How can your poll claim to be legitimate when Dick Cheney isn't even on the ballot? Your partisan thuggery disgusts me.

 
At 12:33 PM, March 15, 2005, Blogger SER said...

The answer I was looking for in the new poll wasn't there. How about "hated the whole long lead-in of inexplicable backstory; tolerated the rest"?

 
At 1:57 PM, March 15, 2005, Blogger dunkeys said...

Not to be a spoil-sport, but I voted twice. Wanted to see if I could.

I think it'd be great to have a discussion about the candidates, based on the amazing reportage. But this doesn't seem like the right venue anymore, does it?

God I miss George's.

 
At 2:48 PM, March 15, 2005, Blogger PJKM said...

I tried to vote twice and it wouldn't let me (I was feeling bad for R. Bausch, my second choice.)

 
At 3:27 PM, March 15, 2005, Blogger Pete said...

Dunkeys, PM:

Foul! Thanks for proving Dick's point. Your subpoenas are in the mail, you scofflaws.

 
At 3:33 PM, March 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dunkster: Sure it is! You can now post anonymously. Just click "Anonymous" as your identity when you post a comment. I didn't want to allow this, but we'll see how it goes. This will be an experiment.

 
At 7:31 PM, March 15, 2005, Blogger Grendel said...

There is a time limit that you set that controls how long before someone can vote twice. I forget what it was set at for the original poll, but the new one is at two weeks, and it will come down before then.

If you want to post a poll, let me know and I'll be glad to set it up.

 
At 8:33 AM, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All four of them expressed support for and dedication to the student, and that's 90% of the job -- how to pack as much learning and opportunity to write into two years that fly by. Marcus simply expressed it more clearly and specifically than did the others, and I imagine that's why he got so many votes. His biggest problem was the fringe nature of his own writing, I think, but once he was able to dispel concerns that he would impose that aesthetic on the program, when the air cleared his passion about maximizing the student's artistic possibilities stood solid and clear.

 
At 10:06 AM, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could be wrong about this, but based on the interviews, it sounds like the offer for the directorship will down to Richard Bausch and Ben Marcus (LSC and JS sounded good, but less . . . "something" than either of them, I guess. Pronounced, maybe).

Marcus main positive: Amazing dedication as a teacher.

Bausch: Ability to quickly recognize the biggest issues in a story and teach from there.

(I'm not counting all that praise for Marcus because he doesn't believe in an ideal form . . . because, well, does ANYONE believe in an ideal form?)

The workshop is hiring a director; a faculty member, yes, but mainly a director. It sounds like a large amount of the positive response to BM was his willingness to spend so much time working with people (which makes me wonder if this is more a reaction AGAINST people's own recent workshop experience -- by the way, MR always had generous weekly office hours -- rather than a consideration of what a director should be). Marcus's strengths are as a teacher, which is great; in my beautiful dream-world, he'd be the workshop director for thirty years, ushering it into modernity, a great balance between traditional and post-modern forms, general warm fuzziness, etc.

But beautiful dream-worlds never really happen. My instinct is that an overriding strength in a program director should be the ability to DISTILL. To distill everything: feedback, discussion, administrative processes. Remember, this isn't primarily a teaching job; that's a large part, but not the whole thing. It's more a balancing act.

I'm not saying the Workshop is perfect now -- nothing is ever perfect -- but that one of its most unrecognized strengths is that freedom/distance students experience: YOU have to try to become a better writer there right now . . . no one holds your hand and makes it easier. Faculty gives thoughtful feedback (most of them, most of the time) and then you're on "your own" (with forty other fiction writers). It allows for sweet independence.

Marcus seems to expand everything, to want to be a part of almost every part of the process. The feedback he gives sounds like it could be nightmarish, rather than helpful (realistically, I can't imagine foursingle-spaced pages of feedback helping anyone revise a story; paralysis seems a more likely result. I'm serious). And that 'expansive' nature may be at odds with DIRECTING -- not with teaching, but directing.

Here's my dream Iowa in a few years: a faculty of Marilynne, Ben Marcus, Jim Shepherd, and Elizabeth McCracken, with Bausch directing. Just imagine it.

 

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