Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reading Books by People You Know

Aaron Hamburger was one of the smartest, most precise mentors I had the privilege of working with during my time in the Stonecoast MFA program. I adored him and his teaching abilities but I had never read anything he'd written. This was deliberate. I tried not to read anything by anyone I might work with at Stonecoast. Someone once gave me the advice that it was better to evaluate teaching based on teaching, not teaching based on writing. In other words, just because I might like or dislike the writing doesn't mean the author wouldn't be able to teach me a thing or two. Style is separate from craft.

Which is all to say that I hadn't read Aaron Hamburger's The View From Stalin's Head until last week. And, not only is Aaron a great teacher, the guy can really write.

These stories are smart and funny and so human I felt like I knew every one of his characters, and cared about them even when they were doing foolish things (possibly because they were doing foolish things). Set in Prague in the 1990s, every one of these stories is impeccably crafted to create the feeling of foreignness (in many ways), of trying to fit in, of wanting to be part of a bigger whole.

Character, place, desire--all of the things Aaron tried to teach me are here on the page

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