Thursday 29 August 2013 10.24 EDT
This great man of American letters should be judged by his body of work and the success of his students, not by his editing of Raymond Carver
Now approaching his 80th year, the writer, teacher and editor Gordon Lish has dedicated his life to redefining the frontiers of American fiction. It’s no overstatement to say that Lish is to the second half of the 20th century what Gertrude Stein was to the first. Mention Lish to most readers, though, and they’ll react in one of two ways: if not with a flummoxed “Who?” then worse, with an “Oh … do you mean the guy who chopped Raymond Carver?”
Ever since DT Max’s incendiary exposé for the New York Times, Lish’s name has seemed inseparable from Carver’s – whose early stories he radically revised, and who admitted to Lish that “if I have any standing in the world, I owe it to you”. Yet it’s time we reclaimed Lish from Carver’s shadow, as a literary landmark in his own right. Until such a revaluation takes place, Lish will remain, as his friend Don DeLillo has put it, “famous for all the wrong reasons”.