American short story writer, memoirist and novelist Max Apple taught a master class in fiction on Thursday evening in the New Library Auditorium.
“We live in a culture that is so steep in sentimentality,” Apple said at the beginning.
The class, sponsored by Ink and the English department, showcased Apple’s short story-writing technique.
Two student writers, seniors Rosalyn Bocker, criminology major, and Katie Hynes, English major, presented their work to Apple who then critiqued each story in a public conversation with the authors.
“Writing comes from other writing,” Apple said. “There’s one big thing that always comes up . sentimentality.”
Apple’s main criticism in both writers’ work was that they used “false language,” or sentimental overwriting.
Bocker tells the story of a grandmother’s wartime account in her piece titled, “What Happened.” Bocker writes, “But sometimes you can see it, a lingering shadow, subtly a part of everything she does.”
Apple felt that the type of language Bocker used was straining and overstated. “You don’t have to convince us,” Apple said. His advice was to simply cut the second half of the sentence and any other excess language.
Apple also said that sentences in Bocker’s piece, such as, “Take a break, dear. I’ll wash these things up. Just set that timer and I’ll be right behind you. Turn on the TV, Judge Judy is coming on in a bit,” employs “terrific, real language.”
According to Apple, the reader understands what is being said without having to work through unnecessary language. “It’s just language, just words. Cut it,” Apple reiterated to the audience.
“If you just say it, the writing doesn’t spoil,” he said.
In a piece titled, “Judith,” Hynes wrote a short story about a young girl named Judith. Apple said Hynes used vivid language and was guilty of slight overwriting, but for the most part he said the piece was terrific.
Apple’s work avoids description and unnecessary words, which makes it his own. Apple gives serious themes a comical twist.
To him, insinuations, satire and levels of meaning burden writing.
“You have a chance to say it in a way Shakespeare didn’t,” Apple said.
Instead Apple favors symbols, acronyms, images, real names and datelines in his writing.
Before finishing his class with a reading from his newest book, “The Jew of Home Depot and Other Stories,” Apple concluded his master class with an insightful saying: “There is no beautiful writing. Simplicity is beauty. Honesty is beauty.”