Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gordon Lish Meets Tolstoy

(Note: Gordon Lish is the editor who mangled Ray Carver's writing. Lish is himself a prominently published writer; a major influence on the "hippest" writers of today. I imagined what would happen if Lish were assigned the task of editing classic novelists like Melville or Tolstoy.)

"First, Lev, baby, boychik, we have to take out this messy historical business. It has to go. Nobody wants to read it! It's history! Does anyone like history? A clue: a short little brief whispered I won't say it loudly little tiny clue: 'Dry as dust.' Okay? Are we getting the picture, the image here, Mr. Count? Yes, yes, I know, you have all that time on your hands on your nice little estate when you're not chasing peasant girls, but we're talking serious business here, Count. We're talking literature! We're talking readers! Is a teenage girl Hannah Montana teenage fan girl in Ocean Barf California going to care one gazoodle about all this historical junk you've crammed into this too-long book? Napoleon? Please. He's got to go, and your characters are talking about Napoleon almost on the very first page! NOBODY cares about Napoleon! Are we understanding what we're talking about here Mr. Bigshot Russian Novelist? Is the light glimmering? GET RID OF IT! Yes, yes, Moscow is very important, yes, crucial, you say. But don't you know one soft-pedalled whispered hint about writing strategies? What did they teach you in writing class? Were you sleeping? Snoozing snoring through your moustaches? Here's what we do: 'And then Napoleon captured Moscow.' There. Okay? That's it. Presto magic solution. SOLVED. Lightbulb? It gets us directly to the important stuff, which is how Natasha feels about it. We'll get inside her perky little head and stay inside there and eliminate the cluttered furniture; the houses, armies, generals, battles, landscapes, families, bad relations, rowdy peasants-- ugh!-- drunken lieutenants: the entire sorry soggy mess.

"And all this philosophical garbage?!! You have me tearing my hair out here in frustration at what you've presented me here with this manuscript, Count, really."

"A whale? A white whale???!"


jimmy grace said...

Does anybody know if Carver was any good before? I think I've only read one of his stories and thought it was stupid, but maybe that's as much his fault.

Brooklyn Frank said...

funny stuff, karl.

Tom Hendricks said...

And imagine what the book cover would look like. The author's name covering the top 2 thirds with 'count' in big letters, the title taking a fifth from the bottom, and a little ugly tiny, badly done, war landscape sandwiched in between. Cost? 29.95, and imagine the number of returns!
Mainstream reviewer's book review headline - "War and Peace", two volumes?
Fun stuff Karl.

King said...

"Grace" is trying so hard at being a mole and playing the part so badly that he could only be a super-rich trustfunder of some kind.
He reminds me of German plants in WWII movies, like Peter Graves in "Stalag 17" or Ty Hardin in "Battle of the Bulge," who eventually give themselves away.
"Hey guys, how 'bout some baseball? let's play some catch and pitch! Heya, whaddya think about Babe Ruth?"
Grace's schtik is "Hey, we artists shouldn't associate with this guy. DYI!"
It's comical, really.
"Like, guys, I've only read one of Ray Carver's stories and I really think you're giving this Lish fellow a bad rap, 'cause maybe it was like Carver's own fault!"
Okay, whatever you say.

jimmy grace said...

I've never defended Lish or Moody or Eggers or the CIA or anybody else. I just said nobody gave a shit.

Your whole blog reveals your own obsession with trustfunders instead of artists. Raymond Carver was forced to change his sentences! Wow, that's the stuff of revolution.

No wonder you have paranoid fantasies about me. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late to meet the CIA to talk about the Paris Review giving blowjobs to Rick Moody.

FDW said...

FDW said...
Yeh, King and I are kindred members of the same Fight Club, legitimate Apaches who live hard and now how to lay down a good line of tradtional American satirical social-Naturalist writing when we feel like it. King's better at it than I am he might be the best alive who hasn't been crushed under the wheel, unlike you...

Graceless who are one of those cad's that pesters more like a fly or a hep-ititus virus, but there's a pattern to your comeupance.
I do believe that you are one of those ass kissers that smarms around the dead body politic of organs like the Paris Review editorial bored, in other words an organ-grinder.
The fact that you didn't run to the defense of Loose Cluck or most tellingly Donut Hull tells me that your're tight with Loonville, both of them.

King said...

But Grace, YOU give a shit, very much so, or you wouldn't be here.

jimmy grace said...

Honey, I'm only here when I'm bored at work.

FDW said...

Dimmy, did you mean:

"Horney, Ize bees only hurt at work getting bored"?

If so then why don't you try to get a job as a Conressional page boy.

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