Leigh Witchel

The New Yorker on Raymond Carver

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I wanted to bring this New Yorker feature on Ray Carver to the board's attention.

It's fascinating because it chronicles the relationship of short story author Raymond Carver to his editor, Gordon Lish, and documents it by showing one of Carver's original stories and Lish's edit side by side.

As a reader, I think Lish's version is arguably better, but as a writer Lish is the editor of my nightmares. His edits amount to co-authorship to me; they have a voice all their own.

Take a look and see what you think. In ballet, we've discussed the lack of editing and editors. When does editing go too far as well?

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I wanted to bring this New Yorker feature on Ray Carver to the board's attention.

It's fascinating because it chronicles the relationship of short story author Raymond Carver to his editor, Gordon Lish, and documents it by showing one of Carver's original stories and Lish's edit side by side.

As a reader, I think Lish's version is arguably better, but as a writer Lish is the editor of my nightmares. His edits amount to co-authorship to me; they have a voice all their own.

Take a look and see what you think. In ballet, we've discussed the lack of editing and editors. When does editing go too far as well?

Well I for one like collaboration and co-authorship; that's why I left the ballet world as a professional, despite some wonderful moments of collaboration and camaraderie (dancing in the "mere" corps of Square Dance? Sublime).

Editing is still a new concept for ballet--a new concept for dance in general, which is still under the spell of the unassailable genius-creator. (And we see how well that's working for us today...) So I can't imagine too much of it, at least not yet.

What's striking about the Carver case is that the Lish editing has formed our view of Carver as a "minimalist" writer, and that's a tough genine to put back in the bottle as it's already shaped another generation or 2 of writers and readers.

Perhaps for ballet the analogous situation would be the formation of reperetoire--which ballets (or versions thereof) become canonized, which are lost. The Scholl/Kirov revival of SB , for instance, didn't make many want to return to that "original" version. And B's "edit" of Apollo doesn't have many fans either.

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Lish had a reputation as an overbearing editor, and with Carver he went well beyond that, but from what one gathers his author needed the extra help. After he outgrew Lish, he seems to have depended unusually heavily on his second wife when it came to his writing. I do not mean to suggest that Carver was being propped up like El Cid or that he was not an exceptional talent (neither Lish's other writers nor Lish's own fiction approach Carver's quality), but he never seems to have been able to manage entirely on his own. Yes, many writers get help, extensive help, from their editors and loved ones but Carver appears to have been a special case in this regard.

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