I mean, why not jump into the fray?
By which I mean, I am mentioning "Who is the Bad Art Friend?", as well as the New Yorker’s (hit?) piece, "The Short Story at the Center of the “Bad Art Friend” Saga" for SEO (LOL — nobody reads this blog, save the five of you), but also for context.
I’m not really going to talk about it though, save that I think it’s fun that Boston is involved, I am (so I’ve recently learned) only like a degree or two of separation from some of those folks, and I actually do remember the whole Boston Book Fair "One City One Story" thing from a few years back.
But mostly I want to talk about me and my friends: much less litigious. Also less well published as an aggregate, but —
And I won’t say we’re not petty or that we don’t talk shit: I would argue that’s one of the greatest joys of friendship (being petty, talking shit). The crowd in Boston met mostly (OK: entirely) in an MFA program (not the one you’re thinking of) and so sure, we complained about and (gently) lampooned professors, the school, the bad healthcare plan, and a lot of those jokes still have currency. We don’t, as a rule, talk shit about our peers. We’re pretty serious about that. I mean, we’re good people after all. We make jokes, sure. We’ve had questions about plagiarism between us and us (which was resolved after a frank, adult conversation, I’m proud to say — and also it wasn’t really alleged plagiarism of material but a stylistic tic, but hey: we’ve all got to try things), we’ve had fights and disagreements and hurt feelings, sure (you should have seen me after workshops during my first year or so of grad school — so sensitive!), but I mean, I think the thing is that at the end of the day we think it’s cool when our friends actually make some work, and we are supportive when they get published, and
we're really good at drinking at the bar we try to support our community when and how we can.
Really, though, much of our time together has little to do with writing. In reality, we’re more a social club made up of folks who happen to be writers and who say things like "I can only seem to read mid-20th century French literature in translation right now" without (too much) irony. We share work, we do — shit, I’m sitting on a friend’s novel right now that I genuinely cannot wait to read — but, especially now that a majority of us are done with grad school. We’re busy. And we sometimes think we have time to read somebody’s thing and then we don’t. And we sometimes think we’re reading to send something out but we’re actually not. And you know, the idea of when and how to send work has changed a lot, too.
Jane (Unrue) said something once that stuck with a lot of us about the difference between private and public writing, the writing that is "just for us" and the writing we "share." I think as we get farther a long into it (should I speak for more than just myself? Sure, why not?), the more we tend to hold onto things until we think that they really are ready: we don’t, as much, need the early look, the "is this a good idea at all" reads. Maybe it’s hubris, maybe we just are at a point where we have a better idea of what we are trying to do and what we want. I think this is a good thing.
So although I admit I have some envy of a proper "writing group," I really wouldn’t want that, at the end of the day. Sure, some more accountability would be good, but honestly I’m not sure I have time for that, either. The infrequent book clubs are enough. The odd short-short shared is enough. The novels come when they come and that’s a good thing: I’m not sure I have enough brain to read sections of novels and keep them all together over the course of months anymore. I like that we instead drink beers in parks in sock-koozies and metal water bottles, talk about who and who wasn’t "personally invited" to this or that reading (and about what day of the week a "really good reading" would be on), about who is reading what, about whether or not this or that documentary about Big Foot was actually just a large bait-and-switch.
It’s a writers' social club; it’s just that instead of the Algonquin or Bloomsbury we’ve got the Boston Common and the Banshee down on Dot Ave, and our best work is still very much yet before us.