Go Read "The Educator" by Sarah Melton

Part of me appreciates the convenient symbolism of receiving the notification that I did not win, am not even chosen as a fucking finalist for, the Colorado Book Award on the same day I launch Fuck Oblivion, my blog that no one will read about writers whom no one fucking reads. Indeed, the blog would have been launched a couple hours before I received the rejection email if my goddamn baby had taken a nap at his normal time instead of raging against sleep like he's Vladimir Motherfucking Nabokov. As I write I am a special degree of pissed off. And part of me, the rational part, wants to smash, maim, and destroy. This is not an interwebbian meltdown, it's just my honest feeling: what Coloradan—no offense to Coloradans, but Colorado isn't exactly a literary center—published a better book than mine in 2016? I'll find out soon, steal it from the book store, and probably be a lot more angry when I'm done reading, unless it genuinely is better instead of merely more pretentious. If I develop into a supervillain (The Rejector, my first target will be Narrative Magazine, with its $23 reading fees), today is integral to my origin story.

"The Educator," by Sarah Melton, was published in the same issue of The East Bay Review in which my story "SuperChad" appeared (March 2017). Did I just link to my own story while trying promote someone else's story? Obviously. Fuck yes, because who else is fucking doing it? That would probably cross some ethical line if I were a journalist, but I'm an obscure writer. The benefit of being invisible is you can do whatever you want and no one will say anything because no one will notice. I know you're not reading this, the first post of a blog no one has ever heard of or gives a shit about. I'm sorry, Sarah Melton, that your story is the subject of this pointlessness, but to get back to it: I don't know Sarah Melton. We're not friends, not even on Twitter, where I'm @TheAlanGood by the way.

So, "The Educator." It's about an underappreciated writer who makes his probably meager living teaching creative writing. Not so original, but about eighty million desperate writers can relate: "When I was hired I fantasized about National Book Prizes and intimate literary gatherings at George Saunders’ house. I pictured a big paycheck alongside evenings of writing novels. I didn’t expect long nights, weekends, and lunch hours sorting through twenty-somethings’ muddled thoughts about drinking on rooftops and dysfunctional families. I also didn’t expect that I’d enjoy it." The last part is hard for me to swallow, maybe because I teach comp. and not creative writing. I like, sometimes love, being in the classroom, interacting with students, but I'd rather pick up dog shit than read essays. Our back yard is spotless.

George, our writer-teacher (and narrator), develops a fixation on one of his student's, Carole, convinces himself there's nothing wrong with pursuing her. She seemingly reluctantly indulges him to a point, meeting him for lunches to discuss her writing, but when she doesn't reciprocate his feelings he turns into a creepy but articulate stalker.

One of those lunches gets a little self-referential: Carole, always wanting to talk to him about her writing, asks the narrator "if the characters are likable, if she deals with loneliness in cliche ways." If we pose the same questions about Melton's work, my answers are not so much, but who decided characters have to be likable all the time? That's a stupid rule. And no, probably not. Maybe it's the Whedon fan in me, but loneliness, one of the oldest and most important themes in literature, is handled well in this story: "When it comes to not waking up lonely, I’ve learned to strategize. I look up university protocol and find vague condemnations. Nothing that’s not maneuverable. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve wrapped my arms around warm curves, or had someone to watch Firefly with."

There's nothing terribly novel in the set-up, a term I use because the story is essentially a joke. I don't mean that disparagingly; I mean it's a good long joke with set-up and punchline. You might be inclined to think the whole teacher-in-love-or-lust-with-his-student scenario is trite, but the pay-off makes it all worthwhile. The punchline stings me upon rereading it because George ends up winning an award for his writing. Fuck you, George. (I feel horrible saying "Fuck you, George" because my oldest son is named George. Super weird. Fuck it.) I'm not going to say anything more about this story, other than go fucking read it.