Once upon a time I was a music writer for "The Deli," an indie magazine in New York City. Every week, my fellow music writers and I gathered at The Cake Shop on the Lower East Side to receive our story assignments and cds for review. We spent the rest of the time trying to out-obscure one another. Do you know this German band that only plays once a year during an eclipse? They're brilliant. Do you know The Basement Tapes? Not the Dylan Basement tapes, but the ones an Alaskan goat herder made in his basement? They're much better than that German band. There was no deep cut I could mention that someone couldn't take deeper. I arrived to one meeting excited about securing Shins tickets, which I mistakenly told another writer. Her nose wrinkled. "Don't you know The Comas?" she said. "They're much better than The Shins."
I thought of this a few years later when I enrolled in a Fiction M.F.A. program. During our first class, our professor asked a seemingly innocuous question, Which authors do you like to read? There was a feeling in the room akin to the sharpening of knives. One by one we answered, trying to out-obsc...
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