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January 10, 2012

Comments

In common with Maksik and Sebold, do you also support child abuse?

http://gawker.com/5863536/how-a-teachers-alleged-student-affair-became-his-acclaimed-novel

Thanks for sharing this link - I hadn't heard about this. It's troubling. I hesitate to draw conclusions about real-life people based on a single Gawker article, but I will say that I think the writer simplifies the novel too much. She writes: "The affair is something that happens to Will, rather than something he does." Actually, I think the text puts a lot of culpability on him, particularly given his position as a teacher, and particularly as a teacher who thrives on -- cultivates -- the admiration of students. One classroom scene in particular stands out where students, for their different reasons, challenge him on his moral failings and his self-justifications. The character of Will skirts responsibility, but the reader, via the text, sees where the students are right.

What I *do* think is an interesting point from the Gawker writer is the slippery tactic of threading real-life stories into fiction, particularly when those real-life stories involve other people's experience of pain. People have pushed the "thinly-veiled novel" genre for years -- think Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar -- but I have seen minimal nuanced discussion about the stakes of writing those kinds of books. I'd love to push that conversation further.

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