Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: Beginnings

Ray Carver and Birdman

JEHplumblossom6

Photograph: Jane Eaton Hamilton (plum blossom)

Everyone knows one of our contemporary masters of short fiction was Raymond Carver.  And everyone knows the movie “Birdman” won Best Picture at the Oscars.  The play mounted in the film is editor Gordon Lish’s version of a Ray Carver story called “Beginnings,” a story formerly called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”  Pretty much everyone knows Lish and Carver had a falling out when Carver tired of Lish’s draconian edits; their riff was substantial enough that right before he died, Carver and Tess Gallagher, his partner, republished a volume of his stories in their unedited versions.

I read “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” years before I read Carver’s original, and everything in it seemed perfect to me.  I am quite a big fan of Lish’s edits, all in all.  (Which may mean I am not as big a fan of Carver as I think I am, for surely my opinion reeks of disrespect?)

Here is an article decrying the fact that “Birdman” used Lish’s revised story.

How Birdman Betrays Raymond Carver: An Untold Story by Jonathan Leaf

A little light editing

Here, from the New Yorker, is Ray Carver’s original version of “Beginners,” the story that became, under Gordon Lish’s hand, the brilliant “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”  This shows all the editorial interjections and deletions, and I would say represents pretty typical story editing, myself, but I know others, including Carver and his partner Tess Gallagher, considered it drastic.  (Long) after Ray’s death, Tess published the book “Beginners” (Vintage 2010) that restored not only this story but 16 others to their original condition.  Good on her; I’m very glad she did, and readers can decide for themselves.

What We Talk About

Oh, here’s a squib about a recent Newsweek interview with Gordon Lish:

Gordon Lish

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