:: Buzzwords

make magic

Image: Gordon Lish by Bill Hayward, badBehavior, rizzoli, 2000

3:AM’s David Winters interviews the legendary Gordon Lish for Critical Quarterly:

If we go back to Beckett, or to various bits by Thomas Bernhard, these examples seem to represent an exception. One wants to find the new. And, in finding it, do everything one can to fight for it. There was a time when I was far more bellicose than I am now. I loved getting on panels and saying, ‘Well, piss on you all: if you haven’t read a Raymond Carver story, you haven’t read the best thing in short fiction’. They’d say, ‘Raymond who? Raymond what?’ Now, to be sure, I wrote those stories. But they dismissed Carver. They only came around to him when he was officially approved, by the New York Times and so on. No one’s approving Jason Schwartz, I can assure you. And we know why. A Carver story is teachable. You can put it in front of a class of high school kids, and they’ll get it. Not so with Schwartz. He presents certain problems. These arise doubtless out of his being smarter, and being concerned with telling the truth – his truth, uniquely.

I want people who can make magic. That’s what the job at hand is. To take the elements of the language, to take these tarnished and exhausted entities, and to cause them to move in a way they’ve never moved otherwise. To imbue them with movement through the particular imposition of one’s will, one’s desire. To say, ‘Can I make it do that? Can I make it do that?’ When I’m reading, I want to be swept away; I want to feel that I have seen what I would otherwise never have seen. I want to be made to say, ‘I must change my life’. The New Yorker recently ran a really vicious piece about my classes, distorting my idea of ‘seduction’. Needless to say, I wasn’t talking about sex. What I meant was that art should lead people away from being-in-the-world by conventional means.

Read the full interview here.

First posted: Monday, December 28th, 2015.

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