It’s rare to get such a behind-the-scenes look at the give-and-take between an editor and a writer. Even rarer for a writer of Raymond Carver’s stature; bundled with controversy around releasing Carver’s original versions, and you’ve got an end-of-the-year firecracker. See for yourself.
On the morning of July 8, 1980, Raymond Carver wrote an impassioned
letter to Gordon Lish, his friend and editor at Alfred A. Knopf,
begging his forgiveness but insisting that Lish “stop production” of
Carver’s forthcoming collection of stories, “What We Talk About When We
Talk About Love.” Carver had been up all night reviewing Lish’s severe
editorial cuts––two stories had been slashed by nearly seventy per
cent, many by almost half; many descriptions and digressions were gone;
endings had been truncated or rewritten––and he was unnerved to the
point of desperation. A recovering alcoholic and a fragile spirit,
Carver wrote that he was “confused, tired, paranoid, and afraid.” He
feared exposure before his friends, who had read many of the stories in
their earlier versions. If the book went forward, he said, he feared he
might never write again; if he stopped it, he feared losing Lish’s love
and friendship. And he feared, above all, a return to “those dark
days,” not long before, when he was broken, defeated. “I’ll tell you
the truth, my very sanity is on the line here,” he wrote to Lish.
Some high stakes, there, no? Whole article here.