Monday, December 17, 2007

Carver Uncut

Posted By on Mon, Dec 17, 2007 at 3:25 PM

The New Yorker 's "Winter Fiction" issue was just published; it contains a couple of eye-opening pieces by and about one of Humboldt County's most notable writers of fiction: Raymond Carver.

In an unsigned essay , the magazine reveals that what we have come to think of as Carver's ultra-sparse style was actually the work of his editor, Gordon Lish, who slashed the troubled, alcoholic writer mercilessly throughout most of Carver's career:

In the years after the publication of "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?," Carver wrote a series of stories dwelling on alcoholism and wrecked marriages. They were eventually published under a title recommended by Lish: "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." According to the professors William L. Stull and Maureen P. Carroll, who, with the coöperation of Tess Gallagher, have been doing scholarly work on Carver, Lish mailed Carver an edited manuscript in the spring of 1980 containing sixteen of the seventeen stories that eventually appeared in the book. Lish had cut the original manuscript by forty per cent, eliminating what he saw as false lyricism and sentiment. Then, while Carver and Gallagher were attending a writers’ conference, Lish edited the manuscript yet again, had it retyped, and sent the pages back to Syracuse, where Carver was now living and teaching.

Carver apparently acknowledged that the success of his early collections was at least partly due to Lish's swordsmanship, but later he rebelled.

Now Carver's widow, Tess Gallagher, is attempting to bring out original versions of the stories that appeared in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love . The New Yorker publishes Carver's draft of the title story , which he called "Beginners."

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