Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Write For Ourselves
From one of my comments on Monday, Paulie K., asked me about the new/old drafts of Raymond Carver stories now being published, showing exactly where Gordon Lish edited them, how severely. Amputation would be my word. Carver, like almost any writer I know, accepted publication at all costs. While a few people I know contend that they "write for themselves" (I've still never figured this one out -- while I do many things just for myself like stare into space and eat copious amounts of gummy worms), I cannot imagine spending the back-breaking, soul-draining energy of writing for "just myself." I am lazy as hell -- I would be pleased with something far less strenous, say an Air Supply latch hooked rug or some pages of a Snoopy coloring book, provided I tried to stay in the lines. And Carver was no different -- he was broke, run-down, and afraid of never seeing his dreams come true. This is not a simple matter, though; Lish provided great, albeit controversial, teaching and editing for many great writers. He composed my first rejection letter (for the now defunct Quarterly Review) which said, "This is all interesting and a tad witty, but not interesting enough to write about." I suppose he had a point with me.
But not with Caver. I read both drafts of "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" and admit to a preference for Carver's original. Not out of some rabid, Carver is a saint mentality (he is, but that's besides the point). I prefer the longer version, the many more moral complexities, the insight into the garden-variety horrors between men and women. His life, to quote a Langston Hughes poem, had not been a crystal staircase, and he understood how fast promise could turn to complete shit, how faith could be eroded by poverty and violence, and how we can get somewhere we'd never wanted to be. When I need a good laugh, I imagine his fictional couples being treated by some douchebag like Dr. Phil. And to top it all off, Carver's beautiful stories got hacked to death for years. Of course, he was complicit in this and eventually he ended his relationship with Lish in a slow, tortured way, similar to all of my romantic break-ups. But I think it was even worse than that -- Lish gave him a break, showed him a way, introduced him at the ball. A fairy godmother of sorts. But a scary, terrible, exacting one. So even Carver's Cinderella moment, well, was very Carver. It's hard, as he himself knew so well, to get away from ourselves.
Michelle' s Spell of the Day
"Sometimes if you want to get rid of the gun, you have to pick the gun up." Huey Newton
Drinking New Yorker article suggestion: "Beginners, Edited" (New Yorker, December 24, 2007) -- Check this out -- it's very eye-opening.
Bendedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday! Thanks again for all the well wishes! Starting to pull out of it, thank the Lord. And much love to Cheri, who also has this straight from hell flu. Please try your best to stay out of this wretched flu's path. I have not been this sick in years!