The class is conducted very simply. You turn in stories, and I read them aloud — I don’t identify the author. One of the nice things about having a fairly sizable class is that it takes a long time before you figure out who’s writing what. These wretched little cozy classes in which you have five or six people, and after a while you know — I mean as soon as the first word is read you know who wrote it. And then you begin being very careful, you walk on eggshells, you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings because you don’t want them to hurt your feelings, and it’s just a pain in the ass. The great virtue of a class of this size is that it really is anonymous.

So you’re not going to get at least personally offended by having your incapacity to write exposed to public opprobrium. That doesn’t help too much — I’m aware of that too. Because oddly enough, even though you’re not identified, you know who you are. And if you are — if your story is being made fun of, then you will take it that you’re being made fun of: your feelings will be hurt, you’ll be outraged and crushed, humiliated, depressed, and so on.

And there’s nothing I can do about that. I know there are a number of things that you want me to do. I mean you want me to be (as you might say) kind. The trouble with kindness is that it takes a long time. That’s really my only objection to kindness. If it were possible to be kind as quickly as it is possible to be cruel or funny, I would be kind all the time.

Marvin Mudrick, describing the class in Narrative Prose he taught for many years at UC-Santa Barbara.