I've been feeling a little guilty about saying an MFA isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Okay, it's probably more helpful to have an MFA on a resume than the equivalent two years of temp work, which is what I'd have otherwise. And certainly, for me, the experience was more than worthwhile; it was life-changing.
I guess what I'm reacting to is the idea that MFA-holders are central to the literary establishment right now, and that non-MFA holders are outsiders -- and I feel that whether this is an accurate assessment or not, it really shouldn't be this way. I don't think a degree program can somehow confer artistic skill, or that the possession of such a degree denotes it. JRL will disgree with me here, but I do think the academy does have a numbing and dulling effect on literature -- though it doesn't have to, and not every program does. But in general, at least some of the blame for the tide of competent mediocrity we have to wade through at the bookstore can be laid at the foot of graduate writing programs. What would Flannery O'Connor say? They encourage too many young writers. There are over 300 graduate writing programs, for cripe's sake. We don't need that many writers. What we need are readers. How many literary magazines can claim they have more people on their subscription list than manuscripts submitted each year? Or even each month? Not many!
But most of the blame for the fact that it's very hard to find a good new book to read belongs to the stupidities of the marketplace. Of course.