Motorman was published by Knopf in 1972, yet the 2008 reprint from 3rd Bed/Calimari erroneously pitches it as a Lish book. This is wrong. Lish worked at Knopf from 1977 to 1994; in 1972 he was at Esquire.
The same has been suggested about Stanley Crawford’s Log of the S.S. Mrs. Unguentine, also published by Knopf in 1972. There is an interview with Crawford where he sets the record straight, that Lish did not edit that book (but he did work on Some Instructions) and that Knopf ed-in-chief Robert Gottleib did.
Gottlieb also acquired Motorman, and Steve Katz’ cult classic postmodern SF novel, Saw.
In the late 60s and early 70s, experimental “hip” fiction was popular and selling in large numbers — Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Donald Bathleme, so commercial New York publishers started to acquire this kind of writing usually relegated to small presses. Robert Gottleib had these three books (and maybe more) published hardback with no dust jackets, like textbooks…later to find that the glue in the binding was bad…
Gottlieb sent these books to Lish for possible excerpting in Esquire. He ran an excerpt for Motorman but Lish’s bosses idid not okay Crawford, as much as Lish loved Crawford’s style. (In 1990, we had mentioned Saw to Lish and he said, “I remember that book!”) So, Lish did some pen marks on the excerpt, sure, but he did not acquire and work on the book as a whole.
A lot of people assume that if a Lish-connected writer was published by Knopf, Lish edited their books. Lish did not edit, other than in Esquire, Cynthia Ozick and Don DeLillo — in fact, when we mentioned this to Frank Lentrecchia, the DeLillo scholar, he retorted, “Gordon had NOTHING to do with any DeLillo book!!!”
…other than being DeLillo’s good buddy, having ran an excerpt of Players in Esquire, and a couple of other stories and articles.
Gottlieb and Lish butted heads often — in Lish’s archives are many internal memos of Lish going up to bat for books he wanted to buy (Christopher Coe’s I Look Divine, Diane Williams’ first collection) and Gottlieb saying no, that for whatever reasons these books would lose money, etc., or that Gottlieb did not like the writer…in fact, Gottlieb was not keen on Raymond Carver and didn’t care for the bleak depressing tone of Carver, but since Carver’s first book had done well, he knew the second would also do well and make Knopf money…which it made a shitload of, creating an artifact in American Literature and Publishing.