M's Reviews > The Writing Class

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett
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's review
Apr 26, 2009

it was ok
Read in April, 2009

Perhaps it is unfair to give a low grade due to failed expectations - as someone who teaches creative writing in high school, I am therefore that much more excited and that much more critical when it comes to a novel with that premise - I want it to resonate with me more so than the usual book and when it doesn;t I am that much more dismayed.
There are a few ways in which this work failed me, and it is hard to know how much is the author's fault.
This is about a writing class with the usual cast of characters (none of whom I found particularly interesting - in Willett's attempt to produce colorful 'I so know that person' characters I only found all the more one dimensional steretypes who weren;t even that well sketched, and I couldn;t keep track of them either) and their writing samples, none of which I liked - I was hoping for either laugh out loud bad or really impressive and instead they all fell flat to me, as did the feedback of the group - all of this was meant to be a backdrop to a creepy murder mystery as one member of the group is actually an angry unpublished writer who is doing all kinds of creepy things and then people begin to die.
So, I don't do mysteries - I can never really figure them out, and I generally don't care enough to because authors often end up sacrificing character development in order to advance the plot, and the plot itself is unrealistic and convenience driven so as to create perfect crimes that keep us guessing blah blah blah.
What troubled me was that not so much, as much as I think Willett wanted this to be different - a deeper book, a more subtle book with more going on, and I just didn't feel that was so. She tried hard to be funny - too hard - and failed - she tried to get me to care about the chracters and there was no way that was happening - and ultimately, there is something just sad about a book dealing with a writing class that is not well written. It shifted from being too obvious to totally unclear, the dialogue was poor and at the end of the day all you had left was reading it to see who did it. That in itself was not as much a surprise as the author clearly hoped it would be, so there really isn't a lot here to applaud.
I will say that I resonated with the writing teacher's mantras and class set up, that was definitely familiar, (which reinforces my first question, how much is an author to blame if you jusat find that you were ;supposed' to relate to a book and didn;t, or praise him if 'all' he did was recreate something you have experienced) and the occasional philosophical turn hit the spot (there is a part where the teacher comments that she puts the phone down when someone is about to talk about her - as in, 'Carla, it';s Amy on the phone, you know that teacher who XYZ ...' not because she can;t handle whatever will be said but because on a metaphysical level having people comment on her reminds her too much that she is part of the human race, which she knows intellectually but resists emotionally. Well I TOTALLY get that and enjoyed it. So is the bottom line that reading is all about you? Maybe for me it is. Hm.
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Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-3 of 3) </span> <span class="smallText">(3 new)</span>

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message 1: by K (new)

K I absolutely adored the creative writing class excerpts in Moo, but using a creative writing class as a setting for a mystery is a recipe for a cliche in my book. All these groups of individuals have the same stock characters, don't they? Like books about book clubs, where you've got the one with the failing marriage and the one who's in denial and the one who should be really stupid but actually turns out to be the wisest one, blah blah blah.

message 2: by M (new) - rated it 2 stars

M Precisely. Here it was more of the same, and the excerpts were just to suit her purposes, as was everything else.

message 3: by K (new)

K I think your question about whether we only like reading about our own experiences was an interesting one, though. Personally, I think a good author can make almost any experience sufficiently relatable to interest you even if you haven't personally gone through it. I remember when I read Tony Horwitz's book on civil war reenactors, and was amazed at his ability to inspire my interest in a topic which was so incredibly far removed from me. It's kind of ironic when an author manages to fail at doing that when writing about a creative writing class, of all things.

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