Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Collective Creativity?

Somehow in the preceding posts and the conversation that followed I lost track of the question that set the series in motion. This had to do with Carver and Lish. Does the fact that the published versions of the early stories were a cooperative effort diminish their value? Are they somehow aesthetically compromised?

If so, why? How? (who wrote the Bagavid Gita? The Epic of Gilgamesh? Do we know the names of the authors of the Icelandic Sagas? ... know that they were not the work of many authors over the course of several generations? What difference does it make? (I ask that as a real question)

If none, or little, or a difference we can not identify or describe--what does that imply about how we are to understand the creative process, with the assumption, held by many, that the individual is the seat of creativity? This is why I mentioned Walter Benjamin; I see this, though I'm not sure I could spell it out now, as related to the problem of reproduction, a parallel: the problem of origin, as companion to the problem of originality.


  1. i just read this piece in the new yorker and, having been an editor for 15 years, it particularly interested me. also i remembered that there was something about gish from a while ago, but i wouldn't remember what...

    anyway, so, in response to your question i wonder if you've read both versions of any of the stories?

  2. Not yet. My expectation is--that I'm going to prefer Lish's edited versions of the earlier stories. I have the feeling that Lish was riding on Carver's back--but, that said, he recognized something there that neither of them would have been able to do without the other... which raises some interesting questions, if you're into that sort of thing.

    Carver seems to have eventually found his way to a voice apart from Lish, and from those letters, it was a painful struggle to break loose. So rife with psychoanalytic drama. What a story--it has everything: transference, oedipal anxiety, (not very well) repressed homoerotic beckonings, labile rejection sensitivity (was Carver bipolar?)... you name it, from any corner of the field!

    I can only hope to Fred no lesser intellect attempts to take on the challenge!

  3. fred?

    you know, it occurs to me that lish was really a villian here, right from the beginning: he obviously encouraged that dependence.

    i should and probably won't read both versions somewhere--i haven't read carver before so i'd have fresh eyes.

    as an editor, i think it is insupportable behavior, the kind of behavior that gives editors a bad name.

    as a reader i wonder what i'd think....

  4. Fred?

    Forgive me... I don't mean this to offend. A private joke. If only God had called himself Fred... what self respecting macho male would go to war "in the name of Fred?"

    ... would kill his neighbor... in the name of Fred?

    ... would claim that "honor" demanded vengence, rather than forgiveness... in the name of "Fred?"

    I don't know that I can buy into such a simple read... that maybe Carver really needed what Lish offered at that stage in his life. And a more conscientious editor-- a better editor... might have failed him.

    Sometimes what is asked of us can't be explained or justified by the hand-me-down rules. ... maybe, what's really asked of us... can never be.

  5. I just want to thank you very much for the link !
    (Pardon je parle et écris très mal en anglais !)

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