The CIA ruined American literature
But it’s also an accepted part of the story that creative-writing programs arose spontaneously: Creative writing was an idea whose time had come. Writers wanted jobs, and students wanted fun classes. In the 1960s, with Soviet satellites orbiting, American baby boomers matriculating, and federal dollars flooding into higher education, colleges and universities marveled at Iowa’s success and followed its lead. To judge by the bellwether, creative-writing programs worked. Iowa looked great: Famous writers taught there, graduated from there, gave readings there, and drank, philandered, and enriched themselves and others there.
Yet what drew writers to Iowa was not the innate splendor of a spontaneously good idea. What drew writers to Iowa is what draws writers anywhere: money and hype, which tend to be less spontaneous than ideas.
So where did the money and the hype come from?