When I said, Im a write r, Stephen heard, Im a girl. And, because i was a girl, when I said, no, you cannot sleep in my bed, he heard someone who wasnt so sure. I continued, in his mind, to be unsure, and only the man I was dating—in Stephens infantilizing phrase the boy she was getting to know—could be sure for. The story Stephen told himself went: She had been drinking and I dont drink. Because i was not a writer, not a person, i was easily made into a drunk girl unable to tell her own story. That is, until now. Ddd Watching boys do stuff ddd But you know all this, even if you havent heard it recently, even if you havent heard it out loud.
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I am not anywhere close to implying that he did. I am saying a sexist negation, a refusal to acknowledge a female writer as a writer, as a peer, as a person, is of a piece with sexual entitlement. No, more than of a piece, it is practically a prerequisite. Humans are wide, open vessels, capable of almost anything—if you read you know this—but you cannot beat the mother of your children, or rape your childhood friend while shes unconscious, or walk up to a sorority outside santa barbara and start shooting without first convincing. I know thats essay an intense analogy. I intend it. Here, stephen Elliot handily provides a clear illustration of an idea most recently proposed by rebecca solnit in her important essay collection. Men Explain Things to me : these things exist on a continuum. Sexist dismissal of women as artists and the assumption of sexual entitlement over them that is necessary to make something like rape okay in our culture—and it very much is okay in our culture—are not separated by vast chasms of principles. Look here, they are two paragraphs of the same story, separated by only a keystroke.
I loved books just as much as Kyle and Stephen did, read as much as they did, and worked just as hard to get the right words in the right order. But now I was confronted with google Groups listserv proof that, to Stephen, kyle was a writer and I was a drunk girl. But fuck em, right? What did Tina fey say about sexists like in the workplace: over, under, and through. The problem with responding to sexism with. Sesame Street is that if you read that e-mail as I read that e-mail, as I was being trained to read—that is, carefully and curiously, over and over—youll see something more than the story Stephen told himself about me as a writer or, in this. I saw, in the form of paragraphs and sentences, my area of expertise, how it took only a few lines to go from professional dismissal to sexual entitlement to being treated as property to gaslighting. Now, i dont know about you, but I tend to think professional sexism via artistic infantilization is a bummer, frustrating, disappointing, but distinct and apart from those violent expressions of misogyny widely agreed upon as horrific: domestic violence, sex slavery, rape. Stephen Elliott did not rape me, did not attempt to rape.
I offer this here partly because it was my very first personal run-in with overtly misogynistic behavior from a biography male writer, and so perhaps my most instructive. I learned a lot from that daily rumpus e-mail (which is a sentence that has never before been uttered). I want to stress that Im not presenting Stephen Elliott as a rogue figure, but as utterly emblematic. I want to show you how, via writing his compulsive stream-of-consciousness monologue e-mailed to a few thousand readers, i was given a glass-bottom-boat tour of a certain type of male writers mind. I scrolled up and down, reading and rereading, and through that glass-bottom boat saw a world where kyle minor was Kyle minor, a writer with a book of stories out, a couple of kids, teaching classes up in Toledo, finishing what sounds like a fantastic. Whereas I was Claire, no last name, the student, owner of a big, comfortable bed. Until my friend forwarded that e-mail to me, id been under the impression that since i wrote, i was a writer, period. If I wrote bad I was a bad writer, if I wrote good I was a good writer. I was, i knew, every bit as ambitious as Kyle minor and Stephen Elliott.
I said there was nothing to explain to the boy, nothings going to happen. Its like sleeping with your gay friend. But she wasnt so sure. She had been drinking and I dont drink. I slept on the air mattress in the other room. Now, i realize im not a special snowflake, that every woman who writes has a handbag full of stories like this. There is probably an entire teeming sub-subgenre titled Stephen Elliott Comes to town.
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Stephen flirts with me all night and back at my apartment he attempts, with what Ill graciously term considerable persistence, to convince me to let him sleep in my bed rather than on the air mattress ive inflated for him in the other room. I decline several times before he relents, doing so english only after I tell him Im seeing someone. He sleeps on the air mattress, and in the morning we have breakfast and then I drive him to the airport. Later that day, a friend forwards me the daily rumpus e-newsletter, which Stephen wrote in the airport and sent to his subscribers, allegedly a few thousand readers, writers, and fans of his site. Its subject line is overheard in Columbus. Of the visit Stephen wrote: It was really a great time, though I cant put my finger on exactly why.
It might have been the ride from the airport with Kyle miner sic whos living the post mfa life with a book of stories out, a couple of kids, teaching classes up in Toledo, finishing what sounds like a fantastic novel and contemplating law school. Or bad it might have been Claire, the student I stayed with. Or the walk for donuts at 10:30 on a wednesday night, which felt late in that town, especially on the strip. I tried to get in Claires bed. It was a big, comfortable bed. She said no, how would she explain it to the boy she was getting to know.
All to say that for the past four years, i lived in a landscape of pandering. Dd, stephen Elliott Comes to town ddd, lets segue into one of my favorite subgenres of literary gossip: writers behaving badly. What writers conference would be complete without it? It is the fall of 2009 and Im in the final year of my three-year mfa program. The program is hosting a reading by the writer and. Barnum figure Stephen Elliott, who, in addition to being a novelist and memoirist, is editor in chief of the online literary magazine.
The university does not provide him accommodations so our program director passes along his request that someone put him up for the night. Kyle minor, another writer and an alumnus of the program, fetches Stephen from the airport. Stephen, kyle, and I have lunch, where we talk about Denis Johnson, our works in progress, and our agents. Id landed a hotshot agent six months earlier, am still freaked out by how, when i google her, names like junot díaz and Jonathan Safran foer appear. I have a story coming out. Granta, a collection in the homestretch, and Im eager to talk about all this with writers whove been there. After lunch, Stephen takes a nap at my house while i go teach. I come back and take him to his reading, then to a bar with the other grad students, then to get donuts on our way home.
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Money from the school, its faculty, its students and their parents props up the local economy. But the true relationship between the town and the university did not occur to me until one of my students, from youngstown, Ohio, essay described how much her mother loved coming to lewisburg, how each time she visited her mother would say, look at that adorable. I just love lewisburg! My student, sharper than we give millennials credit for, told her mother, Of course you love. What she meant, i think, is that Lewisburg, pennsylvania, is a town in coal country the way disneys Celebration, Florida, is a suburb of Orlando. Lewisburg, and countless other so-called college towns like it, is Bedford Falls in loco parentis. Its a country-mouse theme park for young people wanting the illusion of distance, wanting the sense of being away on a journey and all the self-discovery that promises. Its for them, and its for their parents, who will tolerate this distance and this freaky looming self-discovery, so long as it comes with the quaintness of the country, the control of a company town, and all the safety that 62,368 can buy.
The houses are gingerbread Victorians and stately brick colonials, all turrets, stained glass, and sleeping porches. Market Street is lined with parks and bed and breakfasts and small local businesses from another era—a shoe repair shop, a butcher, a vacuum cleaner repairman, a chocolatier, an independent bookstore, a single-screen art deco movie theater where they put real melted butter on the. The town square boasts a christmas tree in the winter, scarecrows in the autumn, and alfresco concerts and community theater in the summer. Every street is lit by old-fashioned globe lampposts, the proud towns icon. It is a place, as residents often insist, that time forgot. In short, lewisburg looks almost nothing like its neighbors in coal-Amish-fracking country, which time has remembered all too solutions well. Obviously, this has everything to do with the university—one year spent at this college, located about three hours from New York city, costs 62,368. Generally speaking the campus can be fairly characterized by the setting of Frederick buschs wonderful short story ralph the duck, a northeastern camp for the overindulged.
this particular region of central Pennsylvania is that we went to centralia—a smoldering village of noxious fumes—on vacation. The buffalo valley smells like pig shit, puppy mills, or burning garbage, depending on which way the wind blows. It is not uncommon, when hiking, to come across a tarry black field where old-growth forest has been recently clear-cut, the ground still soaked with diesel. This all sounds pretty bleak, and it was, even to me, a person with a high tolerance for bleakness and an affection for abused landscapes. Living there, i can admit now that ive fled, corroded a part of my soul. Driving to a neighboring town for a prenatal checkup felt like driving through Capotes. During the time i lived in central Pennsylvania the adjective i used most to describe the place to faraway friends was murdersome. And yet the little town of Lewisburg, where this expensive private university is located, is actually quite pleasant.
Just click the corresponding first letter of your required essay subject and start perusing the Essay samples! This essay, which is featured in our forthcoming Winter issue, was originally given as a lecture during the 2015 Tin house summer Writers Workshop. It was met with enthusiastic applause. Some Exposition fff, until recently i was a professor at a private liberal arts university in Lewisburg, pennsylvania, a little town located at the exact point of overlap of a three-part Venn diagram. Draw one in your mind: label circle #1 Amish country, label circle #2 coal country, label circle #3 fracking country. The towns near Lewisburg have names like shamokin Dam, Frackville, minersville, and coal Township. You might have heard of a place called Centralia, a modern-day ghost town thanks to a vein of coal that has been burning beneath the ground since 1962, belching up smoke and carbon professional monoxide, forcing people to flee their homes and poisoning those who refuse. That vein, by the way, is expected to continue burning for another 250 years.
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