The biggest weakness of American literary culture is the academia that has crept in--the golden rules of creative writing, which present a sort of ready reckoner for evaluation. There are too many people trying to be writers and trying to make a story out of their lives. As a result, there is a certain degree of sameness in the writing: in not just the choice of themes (parents' divorce, death, sexual abuse, etc), but in the narrative arc, in the way the whole thing drums out. This happens mostly at the university level, where filters can be imposed in the creative writing programs, making entry-level barriers more rigorous, more discerning.
My response to this is my usual eye-roll, I'm afraid: I honestly do not blame academia for any of this. It is true that the academy has succeeded in making competent, mediocre writers out of people who perhaps shouldn't bother. But nobody is forcing this stuff to be published. If there's a failure here, it is in the risk-aversion and excessive chumminess of commercial publishing. For my part, as a teacher of writing, I am not trying to churn out new young literary phenoms. I am trying to help intelligent, passionate people discover and cultivate the best parts of themselves--and when this results in work of genuine promise, to encourage and help shape it.
I generally don't strive for consensus in my classes, and when I apply filters, as I sometimes must, it is for the purpose of filtering out the conventional and uninspired. I do strive to lure weirdos into my classes and make them weirder still. So don't blame me, dammit! I'm doin' my best. But I don't think I'm just trying to justify my existence when I say that, when it comes to undergraduate writing classes, the more the merrier. It's about more than creating great writing, at least for me. It is about creating better people through literary art. When we get our hands on a live one, of course, we are delighted; and our graduate program does set the bar for entry very high. But when my lower-level classes fill up, I tend not to cull.
I think Murzban's work is the exception that proves the rule about the conventionality of American publishing. We are big on Indian fiction here, but not enough editors and marketers are willing to think very far beyond incense and arranged marriages. Then again, that is what people seem to like. Indeed, maybe it isn't the conventionality of publishing that is the problem, but the conventionality of human beings. Nobody's ever going to thank you for being eccentric--and if anyone does, befriend them for life.
As for our friend Murzban, read the whole interview; it's excellent. And read his book.