I interviewed Gordon Lish years ago, 1994, I think, when I had a weekly radio show. We knew each other as author and editor. He had published a story of mine in The Quarterly and also had been my editor for The Life and Times of Captain N (Knopf, 1993). Shortly after my novel appeared, Lish was let go at Knopf (I do not think there was a cause-and-effect relationship, but you never know). This interview took place in the aftermath of both events.
The interview touches on Lish’s relationship with Knopf and, earlier, Esquire, where he was dubbed Captain Fiction; also his lightning rod personality, his friendship with Don DeLillo, his own writing, the virtues of throwing away and cutting, and the difference between mystery and information in art. It is always a treat to hear Gordon speaking extemporaneously; his deep-voiced, rhythmic orotundity and his talent for finding the precise if unexpected phrase are inspiring as oratory. Best of all, he speaks of life, fate and art in ways that inscribe those subjects with a desperate significance, even heroism.
I found the old tape of this interview, along with others, in a box in storage. There is some extraneous noise for which I apologize.
Interview with Gordon Lish Part I
Interview with Gordon Lish Part II