Crime

Where's the McBeef?

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In the July issue of Liberty, Scott Stein, a novelist who teaches creative writing at Drexel University, considers Cho Seung-Hui's plays and concludes they are neither especially violent nor especially disturbing, apart from what they indicate about the writing ability of college students:

Before the Virginia Tech shooting, receiving a story with the kind of violence contained in Cho's plays—absent some exceptionally odd student behavior—wouldn't have elicited a second thought….When I read the plays for the first time, I already knew that he'd killed 32 people. But had I not known that, if I am being honest with myself, I believe I would have thought, "This is a crappy play by a bad writer." Probably, even though I have read some directionless student work in my time, I would have also thought, like some blog commenters, "This is a college student?" Cho's work is markedly immature and illogical, but I just don't think I would have seen any of it as a warning sign about impending violence in the real world.

Worrying about "an inevitable overreaction when dealing with students' writing and other forms of self-expression," Stein quotes Stephen King: "Certainly in this sensitized day and age, my own college writing..would have raised red flags, and I'm certain someone would have tabbed me as mentally ill because of them."

Dave Weigel panned Richard McBeef last month.