Sunday, November 05, 2006

Analysis Paralysis

In the continuing saga of my attempts to learn how to write a critical paper of the type required by Goddards' MFA program in creative writing, I went to the main library microfilm room (first time in 20 years) and read twelve reviews of Tobias Wolff's memoir, This Boy’s Life, hoping to ignite a fire. I found little help. Most of the authors compared Tobias’ tale with his brother Geoffrey’s, The Duke of Deception, which I have not yet read.

I realize now that I missed my chance. I was given the golden opportunity of driving Professor Tobias Wolff to the Columbus airport Saturday. Perhaps I should have asked him exactly what he intended when he was choosing scenes for the sub-plot of his relationship with his mother (the subject of my paper). But it was 6:30AM. He looked as if I had woken him. And I was primarily thinking about the dog hair I had forgotten to sweep from the back of my station wagon where his bags were riding. So I did not ask.

But, if I ever contact Wolff for a book jacket blurb, I'll just say, "I'm the woman from Columbus with the dirty car that got dog-hair all over your luggage when I took you to the airport." I'm sure he'll remember.

1 comment:

Michael said...

You chickened out? Oh well, I'd feel the same if he was riding in my car. Sorry, sir, just ignore the dog hair and the sticky floor mat, here and let me remove all of these receipts, empty water bottles and audio books off of the passenger seat before you sit down...

This is the reason that I have resisted getting any sort of advanced degree. I just can't force myself to read something and presume to know what the author intended, the Christian symbolism within it, and how this ties back to the author's tumultuous romantic relationships.

I can't stand writing any kind of analysis of literature. I just can't muster that kind of bullsh*t anymore, so I hear you and feel your pain, but the thing that worked for me as an undergrad was to come up with some sort of outlandish premise usually involving the words "compare and contrast" in the title. For example, "Compare and contrast the religious symbolism in Moby Dick with the offerings in this Sunday's Target circular." It seemed the more outlandish my thesis statement, the higher the grade I got on the paper. I think this is because most professors are so bored of these papers themselves that anything even a little nuts or makes them laugh will earn an A.

I know that it would be good for my “career” to get that Masters, but I dread this literary analysis so much that I just can’t push myself to go any further. I’m very proud of you for trying though, and I’m sure you’ll figure this out.