On a Tumblr far away in the Upper Midwest, lots of essays are being published about the experience of doing an MFA in creative writing at the University of Iowa.
“In recognition of the program’s history and ongoing literary legacy, Iowa alums will publish a series of new essays throughout the summer,” reads the description for The 75th Project, itself an innovative online graduate school brochure. As far as graduate school memoirs go, thus far we might trade 75 IWW essays for one by Elif Batuman. As for MFA v. NYC, you decide. It sounds like they play a lot of Buck Hunter and drink a lot of PBR over there, that they suffer a good deal of heartbreak and that there’s plenty of time to drive oneself mad.
This snippet from an essay by Anna North is only one symptom of the general malaise evident in many of the remembrances:
As exciting and new as my life in Iowa City was, it also filled me with doubt. The Workshop draws students who are often young, who tend to have a lot of time on their hands, and who are engaged in a pursuit that’s fundamentally self-absorbed. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to spend a significant chunk of my time at Iowa worrying about whether I was a good person, whether I’d ever find a real home in the world, and whether the things I was doing were worthwhile. Or maybe I was. One of the worst things about worry is that, even when you spend all your time with a group of incredibly smart people whom you love and respect, it can still make you feel alone.