March 17th, 2011 / 9:52 am
Author Spotlight

Gordon Lish Knopf Bibliography [1977-1995]

Gordon Lish began working as an editor at Alfred A. Knopf in 1977 after leaving his role as editor at Esquire Magazine. He continued work with Knopf for 18 years until parting ways in 1995, having assembled what is arguably one of the greatest editorial runs in publishing.

The listing below is a catalog of the titles and authors Lish published during this time. This is surely not a complete list, but is at least a decent stab at the continuum; comments are welcome with any suggestions as to the extant.

Most of these titles, if not having been reprinted by other houses, are available used on Amazon or in places like Abe Books.

1976 Don DeLillo, Ratner’s Star

Cynthia Ozick, Bloodshed and Three Novellas

1977 Don DeLillo, The Players

1978 Stanley Crawford, Some Instructions to my Wife…

Don DeLillo, Running Dog

Barry Hannah, Airships

1979 Mary Robison, Days

1980 Roy Blount Jr., Crackers

Barry Hannah, Ray

1981 Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Bette Pesetsky, Stories Up To A Point

1982 Don DeLillo, The Names

Cynthia Ozick, Leviathan

1983 Barry Hannah, The Tennis Handsome

Gordon Lish, Dear Mr. Capote

Cynthia Ozick, Art & Ardor

Cynthia Ozick, The Cannibal Galaxy

1984 David Leavitt, Family Dancing

Gordon Lish, What I Know So Far

1985 Hob Broun, Inner Tube

Barry Hannah, Captain Maximus

Amy Hempel, Reasons to Live

Nancy Lemann, Lives of the Saints

1986 Raymond Carver, Ultramarine

David Leavitt, The Lost Language of Cranes

Gordon Lish, Peru

1987 Don DeLillo, The Day Room

Thomas Lynch, Skating With Heather Grace

Yannick Murphy, Stories in Another Language

Cynthia Ozick, The Messiah of Stockholm

Rudy Wilson, The Red Truck

1988 Harold Brodkey, Stories In An Almost Classical Mode

Hob Broun, Cardinal Numbers

Gordon Lish, Mourner at the Door

Joy Williams, Breaking and Entering

1989 Jennifer Allen, Better Get Your Angel On

Sheila Kohler, The Perfect Place

Cynthia Ozick, Metaphor & Memory

Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl

Mark Richard, The Ice at the Bottom of the World

1990 Amy Hempel, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom

Walter Kirn, My Hard Bargain

Sheila Kohler, Miracles in America

1991 Michael Hickins, The Actual Adventures of Michael Missing

Paulette Jiles, Cousins.

Sam Michel, Under the Light

Lily Tuck, Interviewing Matisse

1992 Tony Hiss, Experience of Place

Ann Pyne, In the Form of a Person

Mona Simpson, Lost Father

1993 Greg Mulcahy, Out of Work

1994 Brian Evenson, Altmann’s Tongue

Noy Holland, The Spectacle of the Body

Dawn Raffel, In the Year of Long Division

1995 Ben Marcus, The Age of Wire and String

Victoria Redel, Where The Road Bottoms Out

1996 Gary Lutz, Stories in the Worst Way

Cynthia Ozick, Fame & Folly

Christine Schutt, Nightwork

Ken Sparling, Dad Says He Saw You At The Mall

Diane Williams, The Stupefaction

1997 Cynthia Ozick, The Puttermesser Papers

1998 Jason Schwartz, A German Picturesque

* *

1987-1995 31 issues of The Quarterly

Thanks to Justin Taylor for the assistance in assembly.

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  1. Jon Cone

      The Quarterly was one of the greatest literary journals ever.

      Also, Lish’s rejection slips were incredible, almost prose poems so carefully crafted were they. He had many different ones he’d send as he thought appropriate. I recieved a ‘close but no cigar’ slip and kept it for many years. Somehow during one of many moves I lost it. Oh well. It surely wasn’t intended to be any kind of lit-failure heirloom.

  2. Jordan

      Mark Richard! (pronounced Ri-SHARD) Fiction wonderboy. Run run run! Or, alternatively, enjoy a slice of Psycho ‘Za.

  3. Mike Meginnis

      I am impressed by this list and how much it seems we owe one dude.

  4. Mike Meginnis

      I am impressed by this list and how much it seems we owe one dude.

  5. Mike Meginnis

      I am impressed by this list and how much it seems we owe one dude.

  6. M. Kitchell

      I am impressed by Lish publishing himself. The internet has brought out some bizarre idea that to self-publish (if you are in a position of heightened hierarchy) is egotistical, narcissistic. Fuck that noise, and power to Lish & all the figureheads of the past that did it.

  7. iggypopsabs

      For the last year or so I’ve been reading all things Lish. Thanks for plowing, Blake.

  8. Lincoln Michel

      Rad list of rad books.

  9. BAC

      What’s really odd to me about this list is that there are so many book on it that I love as well as several book on it that I hate.

  10. Matthew Simmons

      Michael Martone, Alive and Dead in Indiana (1984)

  11. Matthew Simmons

      Also, as Lincoln said, rad list, Blake.

  12. southridge

      All hail Gordon Lish! He could be a real asshole, but at least he was an asshole in the service of great literature. What a list.

      Not to open up a can of worms, but Raymond Carver’s Lish-edited material is far superior to his later work. Honestly, I don’t think anyone would have ever heard of Raymond Carver but for Lish’s great edits to his early stories. In its original form, Carver’s stories were baggy, sentimental, just like any other pedestrian short story — nothing that would catch your eye. By slicing out the fat and using white space, Lish let those stories breathe. It gave them a nice square echo on the page. It bugs me that so many people go around saying that Lish was “slash and burn” with Carver’s work, that he ruined the work, that he was secretly jealous of Carver, etc.

  13. Dan Wickett

      85 Anderson Ferrell Where She Was
      87 Christopher Coe I Look Divine
      88 Paulette Giles Blackwater
      89 Peter Christopher Campfires of the Dead
      89 Thomas Glynn Watching the Bodies Burn
      92 William Tester Darling
      92 Patricia Lear Stardust, 7-11, Route 57, A&W, and So Forth: Stories
      93 Doug Glover The Life and Times of Captain N.

  14. Zacharygerman

      sucked off a dog today

  15. Kyle Minor

      William Tester’s Darling.

      My idea of Gordon Lish is so wedded to the idea of a singular aesthetic (or several variations on one) that it’s easy to forget how many books I love were published by him but weren’t “Lishian” in the narrow sense. This is a good list.

  16. Kyle Minor

      William Tester’s Darling.

      My idea of Gordon Lish is so wedded to the idea of a singular aesthetic (or several variations on one) that it’s easy to forget how many books I love were published by him but weren’t “Lishian” in the narrow sense. This is a good list.

  17. Afternoon Bites: Gordon Lish, Rob Young, John Sayles | Vol. 1 Brooklyn

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  18. deadgod

      I think at least some of the unease over Lish’s relationship with Carver and Carver’s writing has to do with discomfort with challenges to the (sentimental?) idea of the Singular Genius. My small understanding is that Lish’s edits threatened to amount to co-authorship, regardless of whether Lish himself recoiled/s from this strong a word. – like with The Waste Land, or Perkins’s relationships with Hemingway (?) and Wolfe (??).

      – and there are also the feelings of fellowship people have for Carver, who seems tormentedly to have felt that Lish had a parasitic or at least destructive hold over him and his writing.

      I think you’re right: most people prefer the heavily edited versions of the stories. But, fair or not, suspicions remain about Lish’s motives.

  19. marshall


  20. Mike Parish

      Like Joy Williams said, Lish took many a good story and made them great.

  21. Dawnraffel

      Thanks for the list! In the Year of Long Division was actually published in ’95. It was originally scheduled for ’94; Gordon was fired while the book was in final production. Unfortunately, the wrong copyright date in the book disqualified it for any awards for which it might have been eligible, which sucked–on the other hand, I was very lucky to have one of the final books published in that incredible run. Also, while Gordon was a genius editor, he never insisted on editing that I didn’t want. Most of the time, I felt he was dead-on right. But the few times I disagreed, he respected that.

  22. TheThingofTheThingofTheThing

      Well said, Dawn.

  23. TheThingofTheThingofTheThing

      Well said, Dawn.

  24. Michael Hemmingson

      Some issues here…Gordo didn’t start working at Knopf until 1978, so those pre-78 books by DeLillo were not his; in fact I don’t think he acquired and edited any DeLillo, they were just friends; ditto on Oszick, she had a longtime home and editor there at Knopf.

      He did not publish himself (outside some obvious pen names he had in The Q), although there was a bit of hubbub when it came out that he wrote his own cover copy for the Viking collection, Mourner at the Door, and the acquisition editor was a former student at Columbia or Yale…

      Lish did not edit Carver;s poetry book, Gary Fisketjon did (Lish crony and Jay McInerney’s college buddy and roommate).

      Diane Williams was never published by Knopf but Grove. His hand is on the stoies as teacher and from The Q…like Christopher Coe, he was not able to get Knopf to okay her books.

      There are more than 100 books missing, but they will pop up here:

  25. Michael Hemmingson

      Also Thomas Glynn’s The Tenement….dark novel.

  26. Michael Hemmingson

      Also Thomas Glynn’s The Tenement….dark novel.

  27. John Domini

      Though GL tried his hand with a variety of writers, his greatest success do tend the Carver way: towards compression, plain language, ellipsis. On the other hand there are imaginations like Stanley Elkin’s, a lush & original stylist, who pulled perhaps his best piece from ESQUIRE, rather than submit to GL’s edits. Elkin was just the kind that Lish had trouble with, & Donald Barthelme likewise steered clear — & as Michael H. points out, GL never actually edited DeLillo. Nevertheless, Lish’s alertness to fresh vision, his alertness generally, his attentiveness, that’s all to the good. Almost any writer, sending out an MS, would much rather hear Lish’s something than the utter nothing with which most editors respond. No question, he’s had a lot of impact. (Full disclosure: GL had two stories of mine edited for ESQ, accepted via phone call, then killed).

      HTMLG might try putting together a list for Ted Solotaroff (start w/ Philip Roth), Herman Gollub (D. Barthelme), or, hmm, Pat Strachan.

  28. John Domini

      Oh and Ann Close @ Knopf, a champion of Alice Munro & many others. Roger Angell, of course, at the NY’R, bringing along everyone from the Barthelme brothers to Ann Beattie to Woody Allen (as a writer); it was Angell who discovered Mary Robison, not Lish. Then there was Alan Peacock…

      GL’s been busy, & good for him, but bear in mind — that’s an editor’s job.

  29. Richard Peabody

      T. Wolfe’s editor after leaving Perkins did a real hack job on his work. Edward Aswell I believe was his name. Big article on it in Yale Review some 20 years ago. Wolfe had died and Aswell mimicked Perkins and divided Wolfe’s work into a series of volumes that would mirror what Perkins had done. Aswell rewrote and even added his own characters into Wolfe’s mix as glue to get from Point A to Point B.

      Glad somebody caught Martone. He has a great tale about how the NY Times book review of his s.s. collection was gutted cuz Mark Spitz threatened a lawsuit and the story was yanked from book after galleys had been sent out.

  30. William Tester

      In 1988-90 Gordon guided me in weeding umpteen hundred pages of iambs, sprung rhythm, manic rant and fourteeners from a crate of prose poems Knopf would publish as Darling. He had a brilliant hand. Loved the man. Much is owed by me also for his work on my collection, Head, which Knopf passed on to Sarabande.
      –William Tester

  31. Coop Renner

      I didn’t think Gordon did Jiles’ Cousins, but I could be wrong.

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