Literature White People Like

I read a review by Elif Batuman the other day, on The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing by Mark McGurl.

So in his book, McGurl argues that Creative Writing programmes have dominated literary production in the US, and with their multicultural student base, have encouraged certain themes like immigrant cultures and “third world” suffering. Batuman explains how “finding your voice” is of paramount importance for students:

The law of ‘find your voice’ and ‘write what you know’ originates in a phenomenon perhaps most clearly documented by the blog and book Stuff White People Like: the loss of cultural capital associated with whiteness, and the attempts of White People to compensate for this loss by displaying knowledge of non-white cultures. Hence Stuff White People Like #20, ‘Being an Expert on Your Culture’, and #116, ‘Black Music that Black People Don’t Listen to Anymore’. Non-white, non-college-educated or non-middle or upper-class people may write what they know, but White People have to find the voice of a Vietnamese woman impregnated by a member of the American army that killed her only true love.

I didn’t know about this blog – interesting way of looking at things. This chimed in with my unapproving comments on Pamuk’s latest novel, especially considering the fact that Pamuk himself is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop that is being criticised in the review, and also in the book apparently. It’s funny how we call urban upper-class people “white Turks” in Turkey, probably a concept borrowed from the US – so Pamuk is killing two birds with one stone! 😛

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