February 2, 2011

Caught on Tape: Gordon Lish on Eugene Marten's Firework

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What is the issue?

Gordon Lish is directly responsible for me publishing Eugene Marten. Lish once told me that, in his opinion, Marten was one of the top three living male American writers. At the time, I’d never even heard of the guy. After contacting Eugene, I asked him if he had anything for my magazine. He sent over a piece that I could tell was a part of something larger. I asked him if that was true. Turns out, the piece he’d sent me was part of the manuscript for his novel, Firework. He then sent me over the whole thing. At first, after reading it, I was more scared than anything. This book was too good for a press as young and as small as mine to publish. I didn’t understand why or how this ended up in my hands, and I didn’t know whether or not I had the wherewithal to get it out into the world properly. I lost a lot of sleep thinking of all the ways I would fuck this up. I later discovered that some of the bigger houses had wanted to publish it but with some really terrible ideas for an edit. They wanted a different ending. God, I wish I knew the names of these editors so I could laugh and laugh if I ever got to meet them. I wouldn’t change one thing about that ending. You’d be a fool to fuck with it. Admittedly, Firework is not the most approachable book. It is not a walk in the park. But this is a good thing. When something becomes “for everyone” doesn’t that just mean it sucks? Nothing truly great comes easily very often.

When it was time to put the book out, instead of Lish giving us a blurb, he agreed to sit down and talk to us about Firework (among other things) for twenty minutes on camera. Lots of stuff in here about Lipsyte, McCarthy, DeLillo, and Neal Cassady. This video will either be very interesting or very aggravating to you. Not sure that there is an in between here. You know how you write something and edit it and edit it and edit it and you think it sounds great and really sings and sounds smart and poetic? Well, it most likely isn’t as good as what Lish does when he’s just talking and winging it. A lot of people can write well (well, maybe not a lot), but when you hear someone speak, someone who has such a strong grasp of the English language, it can make you feel a little, I don’t know…dumb?  I love people who really know how to talk. Most of us don’t know how to do that very well.

I realize that this may seem like a commercial for my publishing venture, but it’s not entirely. It’s honestly the most interesting thing online for me at the moment. There’s a cool part when he starts talking about one of Eugene Marten’s other books, In the Blind. The protagonist of that story is a locksmith. When Lish starts talking about the book, a woman comes through the lobby behind him screaming about her keys. It’s so strange. Anyway, enjoy.  Or don’t. (Don’t forget: there is a part one at the top and part two is middle right.)TC mark

Giancarlo DiTrapano

Giancarlo DiTrapano is 6ft, 200lbs, blond-Italian, straight-acting, 7inch, cut, top. He is the editor of the New …

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