Monday, January 07, 2008

Raymond Carver

I'm behind on my New Yorkers (by, like, a week or two), but I'm finally wrapping up the double fiction issue that came out at Christmas. I had been writing off the whole Raymond Carver-and-his-editor controversy (I love that in the book world this is a controversy), but ended up finding the piece interesting. For those of you who don't pay attention to decades-old literary gossip, Carver's editor, Gordon Lish, did a lot of cutting. Like, 4o percent of the stories lot. There are some who say, therefore, that the editor deserves credit for a lot of Carver's success, his "minimalist" style, etc. Some others would argue that the role of the editor is complex and this is not much different from other editor-author relationships. Some would say that the editor is trying to take credit for this, but Carver is still Carver. Some say the writing would have been better left less touched, longer, rambling-ier. The article sums up the controversy, but more interestingly, the magazine published excerpts of letters Carver sent to Lish over a 15-year-ish period of time. The longest one is a really rambling, impassioned letter sent after Lish had severely cut down the stories for the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love; Carver was pleading with Lish to halt the publication entirely. It's pretty amazing, really, to get this window into Carver's mind, given his alcoholism and general fragile state, and also to see how he writes when he's overemotional and stressed out -- it repeats itself and it's sort of rambling and strung out-seeming. It makes me think I should read more letter collections, except quite frankly, I have too much to read already. Still, this is recommended reading if you are a writer, Carver fan, or book nerd.

No comments: