Friday, June 12, 2009

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett

The Writing Class is almost indescribably good, but I'm going to ramble on and on about it anyway. Amy Gallup was a novelist, but she peaked early and hasn't written in years, except on her blog, where she catalogues funny-looking words and creates debate about the sexiest letter of the alphabet. She's out of print, divorced, and bitter, and she survives by teaching creative writing through the university extension. Her thirteen students this session are the best group she's had in years...except for a prankster who leaves creepy voicemails, vicious comments and pornographic drawings on workshop writing samples, and a Ted Bundy mask in a student's car. When a student dies, the remaining class members band together to determine the culprit, knowing that one of them is a killer.

Willett deftly skewers the writing life and writing classes while maintaining the suspense of a murder mystery. We read writing samples from the class members, which run the gamut from cliched to overwrought, and provides clues to the killer's identity. One student, Carla, has taken Amy's class so many times that she quotes Amy when other students ask questions. Carla could have been a shell of a character, but Willett draws her developing relationship with Amy in a rich, complicated way. The other class members begin as one-note characters (Amy's class roster is hilarious), but we see them develop into realistic people. The And Then There Were None group dynamic is intriguing and very well handled. The group manages to avoid the fact that the killer whose identity they playfully discuss is actually one of them. This is a wickedly funny, thought-provoking, page-turner of a novel, and I'll be reading more of Willett's work.


Carol Z said...

I read "The National Book Award Winner" by Jincy Willett first - it's a bit weird, but very well written. Then I read "The Writing Class". I agree it's well written, entertaining and I really didn't figure out who was the killer until the very end.

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