The discussion on whether or not it’s any help to give a university your money, or funds you don’t have that you end up borrowing, so you can sharpen your skills as a writer will no doubt be reignited in the coming days and weeks with the release of the book MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction. In truth, it’s a discussion that was going on long before the publication of the book, and one that will probably continue for years after the book comes out. Yet the one thing that is difficult to look past is how much studying with a teacher whose books or articles you respect can actually be a boost to your own work.
Before those discussions start up again, this week offers us an opportunity to look at some of those great authors that have helped teach new generations of fiction writers. Today is the shared birthday of “The Dean of Western Writers,” Wallace Stegner, and one of America’s most important living writers, Toni Morrison, both writers who took their expertise and taught younger writers what they had learned throughout their career. Morrison brought along her Pulitzer and Nobel prizes to the table, while we probably don’t have to tell you how the late Stegner — who taught the likes of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Edward Abbey, Robert Stone, Ken Kesey, and Gordon Lish — earned his nickname.
Learning from the likes of Morrison and Stegner — and the other authors in this list — surely meant a great deal to the people that decided to pay money and hear them talk about writing.
Jorge Luis Borges
How many people would kill to learn from the Argentinian master who taught at the University of Buenos Aires? At least we have his Norton lectures he gave at Harvard in 1967 and ’68 to listen to.