Tess Gallagher, in 1987; Gary Fisketjon of Knopf.Photos: Corbis (left); Patrick McMullan (right)
The Times reports today on Tess Gallagher’s attempts to get her husband Raymond Carver’s stories published in their original forms. Copyright on the stories, which, after heavy editing (or, depending on your views, light desecration) by Knopf editor Gordon Lish, became the landmark 1981 collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, is owned by Knopf, and the publisher pulls out all the stops in Motoko Rich’s piece. “I would rather dig my friend Ray Carver out of the ground,” Knopf editor Gary Fisketjon says, and elsewhere in the story it’s revealed that Knopf lawyers told Gallagher’s former agent, Binky Urban, that placing the stories with another publisher would be tantamount to a contract-violating competing work. (Gallagher apparently later fired Urban in favor of Andrew Wylie, because, we guess, the second-most-powerful agent in New York was not powerful enough for the Raymond Carver Estate.)
Look, we understand that Knopf wants to protect a backlist cash cow like Carver, but surely everyone can agree that those who are interested in Carver’s work would be better served to be able to read his drafts than they would be not to? Everyone who cares about this already has an opinion about what Gordon Lish did to Carver’s stories; wouldn’t it be better if those opinions were based on something besides conjecture?
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