Saturday, January 12, 2008

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Redux

For any Raymond Carver fans out there, The New Yorker recently published an early draft of the story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, titled Beginners.

An accompanying article and some additional supplementary material demonstrate the influence of Carver's editor, Gordon Lish, who turns out to have had a larger than usual impact on Carver's writing.

I went back and re-read What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and then read Beginners. What We Talk About is definitely the better story. It's tighter, less self-indulgent, and cuts out a lot of the fat and redundancy of Beginners.

Carver's widow and past collaborator, Tess Gallagher, wants to republish more of his works in their "original" form. Beginners is just a start. She feels that Lish crossed a line and compromised Carver's artistic integrity in the drastic edits. Granted, the edits were pretty severe in the case of What We Talk About but the work as a whole was definitely better for it. What we lose is not the rambling genius of a Melville or a Thackeray, as Gallagher might want us to believe. We simply lose much of the redundant and frankly unnecessary description. It is a matter of greater artistic discipline, the outcome of which is reaching a place of meaning previously unattainable.

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