The short story seminars I took in college didn’t unfold with the same series of bitter invectives and simmering resentments as portrayed in Wonder Boys. We, usually 12-15 of us, were almost uniformly polite, wrapping criticisms inside compliments as any traces of venom or hurt revealed themselves in nothing beyond bitten lips and downcast eyes. In the three different seminars in which I studied, only two stories were, in my view and most others’, perfect. One was a humorous story with a Southern Gothic twinge (the young woman who wrote it was a Flannery O’Connor devotee) and the other was a chilling look at warped domestic life in Malibu. All other stories required significant notes that were usually delivered by 20-year-old students in no position to offer sound advice (myself included).