gordon lish

5 moth-beaten mumblings

14. Flash, prose, short thing? This is your last day to enter the Fineline contest.

2. There is a Gordon Lish Facebook page.

7. Ten best short story collections? Maybe…

5. Here is that David Foster Wallace piece about Federer you should read every year around Wimbledon.

1. Sexcast # 8: Interview/podcast with Roxana Shirazi, author of The last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage.

Author Spotlight & Contests / 13 Comments
July 1st, 2010 / 10:36 am

Do You Really Want To Live Forever??

[Giancarlo Ditrapano sends word of Lish’s upcoming class in NYC -BB]

So you still want to be a writer? Ah man, you are relentless! Good for you and all, but it’s getting kind of annoying, so here’s your last chance for a shot at immortality. (But if it doesn’t pan out for you after this class, you’ve got to promise me you’ll just go to law school and give up your dreams, okay? Okay.) Here’s your golden ticket, Charlie. Don’t choke on it: The Mercantile Library in NYC and Noreen Tomassi have organized another superb class for this summer. Every Monday, starting June 7th and ending on the 23rd of August, Gordon Lish will be teaching again. He took a little break (ten years) but started up again last summer. Due to how wonderfully that went, he is coming back for more. The classes run from 5 o’clock until around 11 or 12. Whew! That is a lot of hours, huh? So many hours! And all beside each other, one after the other! But you won’t believe how fast the hours fly by. The energy in that room could power a train.

N.B. If you have any ego whatsoever, or your feelings are easily rattled, or you think you’ve got Gordon’s number and you just might have something to teach the class yourself, then you should probably bag it. You are already dead in the water, my friend. But if you are prepared to throw it all away and start anew, here is your chance. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’ve heard about the Lish classes. I’ve heard it too. Who hasn’t? But instead of sounding like an idiot after spewing a bunch of garbage about them and then saying you’ve never taken one or even met Lish, why don’t you take the class so you can really back that garbage up, huh? Wouldn’t that be great? For once talking about something you actually know about? What do you have to lose? No, really. What do you have to lose?

Here’s the link. And you’re welcome.

Events / 20 Comments
April 27th, 2010 / 4:23 pm

Collected Fictions of Gordon Lish

Wow. Forthcoming from OR Books. [via Clusterflock]

In literary America, to utter the name Gordon Lish in a conversation is like adding hot sauce to a meal. You either enjoy the zesty experience, one that pushes your limits or you prefer to stay away. Its Lish who, first as fiction editor at Esquire magazine (where he earned the nickname Captain Fiction) and then at the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, shaped the work of many of the country’s foremost writers, from Raymond Carver and Barry Hannah to Amy Hempel and Lily Tuck.

And as a writer himself, Lish’s stripped-down, brutally spare style earns accolades in increasing numbers. His oeuvre is coming to be recognized as among the most significant of the period that spans the transition between the 20th and 21st centuries. Kirkus Reviews wrote of his last collection that “Lish…is still our Joyce, our Beckett, our most true modernist.”

This definitive collection of Lishs short work includes a new foreword by the author and 106 stories, many of which Lish has revised exclusively for this edition. His observations are in turn achingly sad and wryly funny as they spark recognition of our common, clumsy humanity. There are no heroes here, except, perhaps, for all of us, as we muddle our way through life: they are stories of unfaithful husbands, inadequate fathers, restless children and writing teachers, men lost in their middle age: more often than not first-person tales narrated by one “Gordon Lish.” The take on life is bemused, satirical, and relentlessly accurate; the language unadorned: the result is a model of modernist prose and a volume of enduring literary craftsmanship.

Publication April 30, 2010 546 pages
Paperback $17 Ebook $10
Paperback and ebook $22

Author Spotlight & Presses / 34 Comments
March 15th, 2010 / 4:24 pm

“When you realize how little these people like being themselves, you begin to understand why they want to escape consciousness”

Today at the tree-tucked magic barn of Grey Matter Books in Hadley, MA, I bought for $8 the very first issue of Genesis West, the magazine Gordon Lish edited pre-Quarterly, so we’re talking on the fun bus with Neal Cassady and not out to lunch with Raymond Carver. Grey Matter Books had the entire set of Genesis West, all seven volumes, except now they don’t, because Nat Otting owns six and I own one.

In this 1962 issue is an interview between Lish and Jack Gilbert, whose book Views of Jeporody had at the time just won the Yale Younger Poets Series award. After the break are two cool excerpts from the conversation, one about that old hobbyhorse of poetry’s relevance, and one in which Gilbert takes to task the aesthetics of the Beat movement. The whole interview is terrific, and I post these excerpts not to signal unequivocal agreement with Gilbert’s grouching, but to air for the consideration of contemporary relevance some pretty solid gnashing from the early mouth of a major poet.


Craft Notes / 51 Comments
February 15th, 2010 / 8:07 pm

Happy Birthday, Captain Fiction!


Today is Gordon Lish’s birthday. On behalf of everyone here (not just on HTML, but on the whole internet): SALUTES TO THE CAPTAIN. … And thanks to David McLendon, whose Facebook post reminded me. So what will you do for Lish’s birthday?

You could buy a copy of Extravaganza.

You could listen to these Don Swaim interviews with GL.

You could review the complete history of our coverage of Lish and Lish-authors (warning: may not be complete), including the original series of Lish quotations for which I coined the Power Quote category. #1, #2, #3, #4+#5, #6.

Author Spotlight / 36 Comments
February 11th, 2010 / 6:42 pm

Sarki on Lish

M Sarki with an interesting defense (I guess) of Gordon Lish at EWN. I found the intrigue here in Sarki, not in Lish (not so riveting to revisit the Carver thing). Not sure I’ve seen such reliance on another in judging an individual work. Sarki sends his poems to Lish via mail then gets a YES, NO, or SO SO written on the poem. Sarki writes:

But after so many years of working with him I pretty much have a feel for what he’ll like and what he won’t. I get mostly a Yes these days.


Behind the Scenes & Craft Notes / 41 Comments
February 6th, 2010 / 9:10 am


Here is an interview with Carver biographer Carol Sklenicka at The Economic Times, India’s leading business newspaper. This website is quite the thing, especially for the epileptic. It is cluttered and jangly and tries to sell you every square inch of someone’s soul or something. Just focus on the interview.

Noted: a dip in sales of Carver’s books. Why? Why, person who wrote “…a masterful biography rated by the New York Times as one of the best 10 books of 2009”?

For one thing, he was too much imitated and for another, it is usually more important for younger writers to look at living writers.

The imitation thing is one persistent myth, I’ll say that. Is it really more important for younger writers to look at living writers? I absolutely disagree, and my MFA program disagreed, and I am thankful.


Author Spotlight / 49 Comments
January 26th, 2010 / 10:49 am

Gordon Lish is at the pulpit again this summer. “Center for Fiction, Twelve Mondays from June 7 – August 23, 5-11PM $2600 members; $2800 non-members.” Watch yoself.

Overheard in NYC: Why Do the Heathen Rage? Edition

This Saturday I gave a one-day seminar on Gordon Lish and the Lish school(s) of writing at The New School. A lot of what I spoke about I’ve written about on this site, and some of it may be posted in the future, when its written form is a bit more polished than lecture/discussion notes, but for right now I just wanted to share one tidbit from the class. Actually, it happened before the class. And actually, it didn’t even happen to me. I was sitting in the classroom, and the first student walked in. He was holding a copy of “Guilt,” a story from GL’s collection What I Know So Far that I had assigned as pre-reading. He told me that he’d been looking it over in the elevator, and the man next to him had noticed what he was reading. He said the man was a good bit older, and presumably affiliated with the program, because if you weren’t taking a class or teaching one, you wouldn’t be there on a Saturday. He said the man leaned over and remarked irritably to him: “Everything Gordon Lish says is lies.” Then the ride was over and they parted ways. He came into class and told me this story. It made me feel like it was bound to be a great class, and moreover, despite the gray sky and freezing rain, a wonderful day. I thought, that, right there. That’s why I love Lish- he brings it out in people.

Random / 44 Comments
December 8th, 2009 / 7:42 pm

It is all the same to me–the goddamn fancy phony rug, what’s on it and its fucking whereabouts.

Gordon Lish, ‘How to Write a Poem’