I Read An Article About Gordon Lish And His Master Class

This is a story about a Master Class with Gordon Lish. It is written at the sentence level. Lish cares deeply about the sentence. The italics following the descriptive sentences about the class are thoughts on what Lish might say or think about the sentence itself.

It was 1986, I think.
A sentence should not communicate. It should exude.

I was the receptionist at a small New York magazine, longing to be a writer.
There is no presence of God in this sentence.

When he answered the phone, I hung up.
This is the voice of death. Where’s your soul?

The writing class was held in someone’s apartment.
Mere description. You’ve lost yourself.

We sat in a circle, all staring at Amy Hempel who was back as his student, once again.
This doesn’t feel like sex.

He stood in front of us, tall and tallowy.
Great consecution. It will be written by Christine Schutt.

Watching Lish teach was like watching a ranting, provocative monologue from a performance artist
It is not enshrouding the reader.

Fear swept the circle as we each prepared to read from our work.
Sit down. You’re hurting my ears.

Week after week, the class got smaller as people dropped out.
Statement of fact.

I told Lish that I had to miss a class because of a work thing.
Good.

I stared at his khaki pants as he paced the room and wondered how many he owned or if he did a lot of wash.
Be open to what fascinates you.

I began to think of reasons why I couldn’t read my work in the circle any more.
I don’t care about your story. I care about your sentence.

One week, I just stopped going to class.
You’re intimidated by fear. You will have nothing unless you desire. Desire is all you have.

Or at least this is how I remember things.
Everything is fiction. TC mark

This post is part of Tao Lin Day. To read more posts in this series, click here.

image – Steve Snodgrass

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