I don’t know why, you don’t know why, very few people know why, and those people don’t talk so we might as well forget about them. For some reason, Fiction is in a separate department from Poetry and Non-Fiction here at Columbia. We are not really encouraged to mingle by our departments the way Non-Fiction and Poetry mingle. Fiction is in another building. It’s strange.
But, you know, we’re just a bunch of crazy young people, so when Jennifer Tatum-Cotamagana asked Chris Terry and I if we liked the idea of doing a reading with readers from all three departments, we said yes (yeah? yeah!? YEAH!).
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As far as I was concerned, it was one more department to attend the reading. I only know a couple people from the Fiction department (one of them is Chris for reasons aforementioned), but generally with these things it’s the more the merrier, right? There is something authentic about hearing a reading with a group of people, and the more people there are, at least up to a point, the bigger it feels. It’s really not the clapping; once you have enough people that you can’t individually pick out the claps, you’re fine. It’s the air of attention.
Well, what do you know, but they’re actually interesting people to boot! Of course I should expect that since our interests overlap so greatly (yes I read fiction too), but a lot of times literary people can be a bit introverted (a lot introverted), and so things get a bit cliquey and awkward. Since I was one of the hosts, I went around trying to be a bit social and chat people up, especially to thank Kevin Kane for reading. It was interesting to hear from the fiction department and the techniques they focus on, and it sounded like they also found it interesting to hear different voices.
It’s a scary concern being in an MFA program: that your aesthetic will become too localized to the point where you think you know what you’re doing and other people are wrong about what they’re doing. Obviously you want to develop, but it’s great to make your influences as broad as possible.
Like, you know, hearing the work of the Fiction department at your own College. Plus one for the ambassadors!