Meet John Wray nee Henderson.
Ten years ago, he used to go to the same New York-based MFA program as I did. (Hint: it has the word “University” at the end.). He’s a big-time novelist now. But back in the day, John Henderson was just an expensive private college guy from an expensive high school who went to Tuesday poetry workshop with the rest of us.
He didn’t like going to our program. He dropped out.
Fast-forward five or so years and I am at a book party, and I see him again. Same sour puss, same aloof dickishness. And one of his friends–a friend of a friend, and she was kinda jerky, too, come to think of it–up and tells us Mr. Wray nee Henderson used to pass out and recite everyone’s rough drafts and then make fun of them.
No, not just make fun of them–he would recite them in that making-fun-of way guys from aggressively alternative backgrounds do. To all his Brooklyn junkie friends and stuff.
I remember thinking, Gee, you weren’t supposed to do that.
I bit my tongue because that’s what I did then.
Still, I remember thinking, Gee, that’s kind of, like, the most dickish thing you can do.
Anyway, fast-forward five more years, and he’s one of Granta’s best novelists, etc.
I just wanted to, you know, tell the world that he’s kind of a dick. On my blog. If anyone cares.
PS. He wrote really shitty poems. He read one particularly inert piece at the Nuyorican at a reading for our program, to a particularly low level of applause. I felt bad for him then. I kinda still do.
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: It wasn’t a complete surprise discovery about his dickish xeroxing-and-ridicule. Backchannel emails from fellow students remind me that his complete disdain of everyone’s poems manifested in his placing his small head in his hands when someone read his or her poem aloud to the group, as well as his confrontations with teachers for not getting the praise he thought he deserved, and general, you know, dickishness.
Funny thing is, depending on which workshop he made fun of, most if not all of these writers Wray nee Henderson ridiculed went on to publish books, anthologize, earn praise from readers and critics alike, and generally become successful, real poets.