As someone who is skeptical about editors – though committed to brutal self-editing – I must get a look at the new edition of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver’s story collection which exhibits the taut, understated prose that has influenced an entire generation, and more, of short story writers:
Lish, an editor at Esquire magazine and Alfred Knopf as well as a novelist in his own right, made major changes to many of the stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, cutting about half of Carver’s original words and changing more than half of the endings.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I emphatically do not subscribe to the prevailing view that literary writing is a collaborative venture for the greater good, in other words, to make a better product. That may work just fine for toothpaste – or sausages – but not for art. The question of how judgements are pronounced, and what gets published, has everything to do with personal bias, cultural expectations, the reigning literary climate, and power: What We Talk About When We Talk About Books.