Discussion in 'Streetwear and Denim' started by rjbman, Feb 16, 2013.
Do you prefer Carver's actual writing or the heavily edited versions by Gordon Lish?
For me, undoubtedly the edited ones. They leave more space and remove the often rather uninteresting denouements that Carver himself wrote. I don't see why we fetishize the lone author whether it's in some European romantic or existentist mode or the rugged and heroic American version. Editors (whether official or simply partners and friends reading and offering criticism of what to remove) are important and always have been. It can be similar in films (although the commercial pressures are undoubtedly greater) - sometimes the Director's Cut really is better, but sometimes it's just more self-indulgent.
I don't think you can really compare Lisch and Carver's relationship to the typical writer/editor process though. Lisch practically wrote an indeterminable amount of those stories.
Because fiction might be the last province of the lone imagination?
I think purity of vision will always win out. Collaboration is interesting, but often, the most captivating element is the narrative of its creation, not the product itself. And writing has always been about the most direct and personal kind of communication, one mind spilling into another.
But I don't think that's what people have in mind when they take issue with Lish; it's more of a bait of switch type feeling, isn't it? The idea that something that's marketed as an individual product is more of a group effort, like a movie.
I'm not sure - I'm not sure if the collection I read was Carver or Lish (I suspect Lish), and I've not read the same story to compare. Perhaps in the future I will compare.
Which do you prefer?
Sorry, this is mythology. It's a nice myth, but there are, in reality, very few 'lone' writers.
I disagree, and I think that one of the worst trends in current academia is the tendency to try and obliterate 'authorship' -- really, anything that would stand in the way of the critic.
Yes, there are editors, people with varying degrees of involvement. But even in my somewhat limited experience with friends and acquaintances who've managed to publish books (both in small houses and super-conglomerate houses alike), their influence is nothing that would reduce the role of author to myth. Far from it.
Otherwise, the Carver-Lish relationship would not be such a point of interest.
This is a good point. It's important to make sure that your art avoids answering questions as much as possible.
Lish's edits, by far. Carver's unedited versions are good stories but not much more than that.
If you read "The Bath" and "A Small, Good Thing" you can see how extensive the differences are. They're essentially same story, with "The Bath" being Lish's edited version.
Try not to overlook in all of this that Carver was close to unknown until Lish came along. At least on a national level. At least as far as the average reader probably never heard of him. A few of his pieces appeared in anthologies prior to their acquaintance, but not anything like Esquire grade recognition or whatever. The fact that Lish had a hand (yay puns) in putting Carver on the map speaks to some really fortunate timing. For both of them. At least to me it does.
Carver, as far as we know, was a little destitute and a lot drunk and going around earning his keep as a janitor among other things while never managing to finish his graduate degree. Lish on the ohter hand sort of made his career out of 'massaging' a lot of good writers' work into what became their respective voices, styles, etc. Which I don't think is a bad thing; you can be fantastically gifted at telling stories and still muck it all up when you set those stories to paper. Obviously Carver wasn't like that but it feels like he needed somebody to see what was good about his work, objectively good, and clean it up so the stories wouldn't get lost in all the other stuff that belonged on the cutting floor.
By the way I'm definitely not saying I prefer one version of Carver's work over the other, his or Lish's, I just sort of look at it as an instance of each giving the other a leg up in the literary world. Which is probably prettifying the whole thing to death but whatever.
Loved Norweigan Wood. Very soulful, very interesting, very beautiful. I really enjoyed how it was basically a love story, but told without pretentiousness - the characters are matter-of-fact, their situations are simultaeniously simple and complex, nothing is gained without something being lost. While there was a certain element of the dramatic (really, THAT many suicides?), I didn't really mind at all. As a story that's both coming-of-age, romantic, reflective and internally autobiographical (the main character reliving his past) it was incredibly deep, but delightfully accessible.
Almost as great as South of the Border, West of the Sun.
Some favourite lines:
"I don't want to talk to you," she said.
Her friend with glasses looked at me with eyes that said: she doesn't want to talk to you. Sorry.
We were like kids that grew up naked on a desert island. If we were hungry, we'd eat a banana; if we got lonely, we'd go to sleep in each others' arms. But that kind of thing doesn't last forever.
So I just came across this PDF of Rick Moody's Boys, easily his shortest and most digestible read. I would also say his most strangely affecting.
It won't change your life....but it could change your afternoon.
Recently finished 'the Master and Margarita'.
I did not enjoy this book - there were several times, each night, I considered putting it down and giving up. I picked this up based on CD's review last year, but it didn't do it for me. The narrative is ostensibly about the Devil arriving in Moscow, causing havoc, and eventually entangling himself with Margarita and her 'Master' (a somewhat obnoxious whingy author type). Laden with re-tellings of Pontius Pilate's trial of Jesus, much of the story is metaphorically about 20th century Russia/Soviet Union. However, the first 1/3-2/3 of the book are, apparently, disconnected ramblings about different pranks the devil, or his minions, pull. These are fairly tame and everyone over-reacts, they are also very hard to connect together (or at least I found them disconnected and incoherent). Add on to that the typically Russian 'everyone has 50 fucking names' characteristic and I was on struggle street.
The book had some redeeming moments - when one of the devil's minions (a magician) captivates and stuns his audience was a part I found exceptionally vivid and engaging, similarly, most of the writing about Margarita (1/5-1/4 of the novel) was also very easy to engage with. So, I suppose my conclusions are that, for me, the book had way too many characters, way too many narrative threads that didn't connect up well (and even when they did it was very hard to buy) and consequently I spent most of the book thinking 'dafaq did I just read?'.
Harder to follow than Dostoevsky, less rewarding. Would not re-read. YMMV.
Overall I liked Master and Margarita but I had a lot of the same feelings so I can see disliking it.
Wog - I think you're a much more patient reader than I am. I was the sort who'd grab Gothic Fiction over postcolonial writing in 2nd year, etc (although Matthew Lewis can fuck off and die)
Anyway - recently finished up 'The Fault in Our Stars' - definitely a pop-lit book (if I can use a phrase that might not exist), but at times pretty interesting.
Recommended and forced onto me by my mother, I found my else enjoying this novel. John Green writes about Hazel, a terminally ill teenager (cancer), who is both intelligent and incredibly deprecating. She meets another cancerous teenager, Augustus, and they basically fall in love and then end up in Amsterdam to meet a famous novelist they both admire. The love aspect of this story was a bit corny, to be honest, but Green writes about cancer, pain, the frustrations of being sick, and a whole world of medical smothering with such irreverence and humour I couldn't help but enjoy it. Additionally, the parental characters were all insanely touching and very moving - they had minor parts in the novel, but managed to convey a sense of intense and genuine parental love (although having not been a parent I'm, like, projecting here).
I want to quote the author's note, as I think it demonstrates the tone of the novel quite well:
"This is not so much an author's note as an author's reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up. Neither novels or their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is the sort of foundational assumption of our species. I appreciate your cooperation in this manner."
Look, if anything, this book was a bit too clever, the characters a little too well adjusted for people who are slowly and painfully dying without having (really) lived, the personalities a little too unique and complete for teenagers. The minor characters, as well, also seemed a little too polished and squeaky clean. Far from a sin, but definitely something that grated a little.
Separate names with a comma.