Brink Hall, Room 200
P.O. Box 441102
Moscow, Idaho 83844-1102
hereby resign my position as professor of English at the University
of Idaho, effective at the end of the current fiscal year.
are two primary reasons for my decision. First, my vision of academia
in general and the notion of what constitutes a creative writing program
in particular has bifurcated from what I have seen evinced at the
University of Idaho over the last few years. I find it increasingly
difficult to abide by the so-called "entrepreneurial spirit"
(an oxymoron if ever there was one) that has arisen here; at least
by my admittedly eccentric lights, such an impulse has begun to transform
the rich historical paradigm of what liberal university life could
and should be into the intellectual and pedagogical equivalent of
a McDonald's franchise. In addition, I've grown incrementally more
frustrated listening to the ambient rhetoric of "excellence"
and "diversity" generated by an institution that in fact
attempts to camouflage the lack of both. Couple that with the widespread
absence of support and funding for the humanities here, and, well,
we are all a little poorer in all the ways that really matter.
a more local stratum, I'm less than sanguine about the creative writing
program's aspiration to look a lot like most of the other three hundred
and fifty or so run-of-the-mill creative writing programs in the country
rather than striving to make itself unique, invigorating, peerless,
and an extraordinary draw in its own right. My sense is that it situates
itself by looking in the rearview mirror in order to parrot what's
already been thought and done rather than by looking through the windshield
in order to innovate and anticipate what it could and should become.
It tends, therefore, to think retrogressively rather than progressively,
locally rather than nationally (or, better, internationally)--and
yet then it professes sincere surprise when first-rate graduate students
don't flock to it.
second reason for resigning is more personal. I've always been keenly
aware that there are many lives to live, and recently I've found myself
itching to explore some other experiential possibilities for a while.
It goes without saying that I intend to continue thinking, writing,
and publishing, but I also want to spend more time looking into some
of the myriad other gestures that comprise living.
of course, is ever simple in the world. It might seem straightforward
enough, given what I've just said, to assume that I've been somehow
miserable during my decade working at the University. Nothing could
be farther from the case. I've enjoyed my teaching immensely, and,
in light of my extremely strong evaluations, I like to think most
of my students have, too. I'm deeply appreciative as well for the
time and space the University gave me to research and write, enabling
me to complete and publish five novels, three scholarly books, three
short story collections, a textbook on creative writing, a poetry
chapbook, in the neighborhood of fifty essays, fifty-five short stories,
fifty reviews, and twenty poems; to serve as editor of several additional
books and special issues of various journals; and to deliver nearly
two hundred lectures, readings, and talks around the country as well
as in England, Finland, Germany, France, and Hungary. And I count
myself lucky that during my stay here I was also able to teach in
the Fulbright program, serve as Idaho Writer-in-Residence for two
and a half years, win a Pushcart Prize for my fiction, find myself
finalist for the Philip K. Dick award for best science fiction novel,
receive an S.B.O.E. grant, and take a number of University of Idaho
students to London on the Cooperative Center for Study in Britain's
study-abroad program. In a phrase, I'm anything but a morose man.
that's nice enough, but more important to me is the number of wonderful
people I've had the opportunity to meet and get to know while working
at the University, many of whom I now count among my close friends.
And it almost (but never quite) goes without saying that I fall in
love with Idaho a little more every day. Neither my wife nor I can
imagine leaving this place any time soon.
that in mind, should you ever find yourself in a crunch and need someone
to cover the occasional fiction-writing or contemporary fiction and/or
theory course down the road, I hope you keep me in mind. But, given
the current creative, intellectual, and economic climate at the University,
it's clear to me that I'm coming dangerously close to overstaying
my welcome as a permanent fixture. Almost every day I feel a little
more like a goldfish at a knitting convention. And so it's time to
you all for everything. I will always remember you and my vibrant
students with resounding fondness.