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Gordon Lish :: On New Book & Writing


I read an interview with Gordon Lish on BOMBLOG and some of his answers made me mull.

But the only one that I remembered enough to try and reference in conversation a few days after reading his interview is Lish’s take on what a writer tries to do with the opening sentence.

He says, “Well the opening is to get the thing opened, to overcome the inertia of silence, indifference. Whatever means convince you you have achieved this effect ordain what follows.”

He then clarifies that by silence he means “The silence that precedes the writer beginning to write,” as opposed to the silence that precedes the reader beginning to read.

A little later, Lish gets giddy when asked about the FORWARD to his new book, COLLECTED FICTIONS.

He says, “Wow, that bit, it’s nuts! What the deuce was I up to? Yet, let it not become hypertrophic in me, but I have been taken with the feeling that the preface discloses, however opaque, what’s truest of me. I produced it as fast as I could write it and concluded, queerly, I’d stand by it no matter what. Apart from its drift as reference, there’s words in there I’m not certain are to be found anywhere else.”

And I grew curious about the FORWARD. I wanted to read at least the FORWARD, if nothing else. I found it online at OR BOOKS.

And then I did a little ctrl c + ctrl v for ease of passage:


By Gordon Lish

Fine, fine—now here’s a trope for you.

To fetch groceries, to collect rations, to supply the place with vittles, unless it be deemed better spelt victuals, I do not have to but indeed do choose to make my arthritic, rachitic grudge down a steep hill and thereafter to groan my way back up the steepness steeper still, what remains of my proprium all the while suffering ever more keenly the impudent yearage step by hideous step, whereas, please be so good as to be listening to me, I could just as well carry out my commerce among the aisles of a spankingly swell food-o-rama no more distant from my door and, more’s the madness, reachable via a byway latitudinous to a fault.

But I go down, down, down, up, up, up.

You hear?

Now down, now up—to and from where the grisly shelves are stocked with little in the line of the recognizable, to and from where the ether within is never not vicious with infection and disinfectant, to and from where the personnel (am I kidding?—personnel, personnel?) would even on Easter sooner spit in your face than to face it in a faint-hearted experiment in decency.

Go know.

But look at me, look at me!—I went and I went, dark purchases mounting against the load-bearing walls of my household trip upon ghastly trip.

So there for the nonce is the figure of the day, your author having hence satisfied himself of his having hinted at the amentia of what founded the variously deformed fundaments of the stories (am I kidding?—stories, stories?) all arranged for you in the very sequence of their sequentiality ahead.

I, I, I was the maker of them.


Long ago.

When the literateur’s swindle was no less the rage.

So now to quit now.

Ah, but curse, curse the volition!—too much paid for the profit, too much told for the gain.

::photo by Shelton Walsmith, 2006::

July 25, 2010 10:23 am

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