Flannery O’Connor famously said “Everywhere I go, I’m asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.”
San Francisco’s Academy of Art University has taken this to heart. A student was expelled for writing a graphic serial killer story and the instructor was dismissed for her part in the affair, namely for having assigned the reading of a violent story that was off the syllabus.
The imagination of teenagers is often — I’m tempted to say always — the only sure capital they possess apart from the love of their parents, which is a force far beyond their capacity to comprehend or control. During my own adolescence, my imagination, the kingdom inside my own skull, was my sole source of refuge, my fortress of solitude, at times my prison. But a fortress requires a constant line of supply; those who take refuge in attics and cellars require the unceasing aid of confederates; prisoners need advocates, escape plans, or simply a window that gives onto the sky.
Like all teenagers, I provisioned my garrison with art: books, movies, music, comic books, television, role-playing games. My secret confederates were the works of Monty Python, H. P. Lovecraft, the cartoonist Vaughan Bodé, and the Ramones, among many others; they kept me watered and fed. They baked files into cakes and, on occasion, for a wondrous moment, made the walls of my prison disappear. Given their nature as human creations, as artifacts and devices of human nature, some of the provisions I consumed were bound to be of a dark, violent, even bloody and horrifying nature; otherwise I would not have cared for them. Tales and displays of violence, blood and horror rang true, answered a need, on some deep, angry level that maybe only those with scant power or capital, regardless of their age, can understand.
To no one’s surprise, prison does an even better job of stifling writers .
Prison officials destroyed computer files containing inmates’ personal writing days after a prisoner won a national writing award, best-selling author Wally Lamb said. Lamb, who teaches a creative writing workshop at the York Correctional Facility in East Lyme, said Wednesday that 15 women inmates lost up to five years of work when officials at the prison’s school ordered all hard drives used for the class erased and its computer disks turned over.