Writers and editors!

One of Dostoevsky’s sentences I like a lot goes something like this:

Even if it were proved to me that Christ was outside the truth, and it was really so that the truth were outside of Christ, then I would still prefer to stay with Christ rather than with truth.

An admirable sentiment; by the way, strangely, I found one of the religious teachers I admire a lot made a similar point in one of his discourses; while discussing how people decide to follow one religious leader or other, he said that people decide based not on how intellectual the leader is but how impeccable his conduct is.

But, I am digressing. What brought the Dostoevsky quote to my mind is Daniel Green’s stand, namely, that published Carver, irrespective of whether his editor Gordon Lish was a co-author or not:

As an erstwhile scholar of postmodernism, I am perfectly comfortable with indeterminacy and dislocation. I understand that texts can be elusive, unstable, self-contradictory. But a literal instability between different versions of the “same” text is a bit too pomo even for me. My introduction to Carver came through the Lish-edited stories that to me signalled a break from the formal experiments and self-reflexivity of postmodern American fiction but did not merely return to old-fashioned storytelling. The severely pared-back minimalism of these stories seemed to accept the postmodern critique of representation if not its alternative strategies. Character and plot are stripped to the bone, the former presented to us entirely through mundane actions, with no attempt at “psychological realism” (thus we never really get to “know” Carver’s characters, we just watch them wandering through their lives), the latter flattening out Freytag’s triangle to an unemphatic succession of events. It’s these stories that offered a Raymond Carver engaged in his own kind of experimentation (how bare and uninflected can realism become while still maintaing our interest?), which as far as I can tell is mostly absent in the more elaborated but conventional Lish-less originals. Even if Gordon Lish did essentially co-author the published stories, that’s still the Raymond Carver I’d rather have.

Take a look!

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One Response to “Writers and editors!”

  1. Publishing in Scientific American « Entertaining Research Says:

    […] PS: Though not really related to SciAm, you might also want to take a look at this Raymond Carver-Gordon Lish writer vs editor post! […]

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