Sep 252013

Jason Lucarelli, David Winters, and Greg Gerke discuss Gordon Lish, style & life, in a roundtable at The Literarian. Not to be missed, given NC’s commitment to Lish studies and Jason’s two essays here.


When I think of the intersection of style and life, I think mostly of the typical Lish mode, the monologue form. In an interview between Rob Trucks and Gordon Lish, Lish defends his preference for the first-person point of view, saying: “Just to be able to point to a book that was rendered by reason of another kind of device wouldn’t be worth the price in not getting far enough in.” Lish often lectures about “going deep,” about how a writer can never go deep enough. In Tetman Callis’s “The Gordon Lish Notes,” Lish says, “If your work is to work, it must work the way your mind works—the way your mind really works, deep down inside your secret loathsome self.” These ideas, I think, at once dictate the content and the style of the writing produced by Lish and by others who learned from Lish. This daringness, this boldness is reflected in the way these writers often write and in what they are willing to offer up of themselves as they write. There’s often a balancing act—performed through the compositional act of consecution—concerning a secret that, as the poet Mary Ruefle says, “neither hides itself nor reveals itself.” This, I think, is the ethos you’re speaking of, David—the risk of redeeming one’s experience.

Read the rest at The Center for Fiction.

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