(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.)
GORDON LISH MEETS 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."
BONUS: GORDON LISH MEETS MELVILLE
"A whale? A white whale???!"