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Interview in The American Story: The Best of StoryQuarterly

Cane Hill Press put this one out in 1990, back when Diane Williams was still an editor at StoryQuarterly and the magazine had a distinct feel to it (albeit strongly Lish-influenced).

The interview is conducted by Lish-writer Patricia Lear, whose sole Knopf book we are re-reading right this moment and will discuss soon.  She admits to being a tad frightened of talking to Lish, because of all the “things” she’s heard about him. He laughs and takes it in stride — he knows his reputation and he encourages these public images.

GL: I can’t imagine why. I’m a very mild fellow. (laughter)

PL: Well, from what people have said about you. Many, many stories circulate. And last night, Iwas amazed at the love you put out. That’s what struck me first. The intensity that you want this to work, and te caring about these people, the writers in the room. I didn’t expect that. I thought it would be the kind of thing where your students had to “earn” you. An uphill battle.

GL: Well, I expect that, not unlike any extraordinary event, if I may characterize what goes on in that room an extraordinary event, those who are not present for it are inclined to develop rather inaccurate notions of what goes on. One has to be there.



Another interview included is with Anne Beattie, who was once a Lish student at Yale, and while Lish tried like bats to get Beattie into Esquire, it was a no-go with Howard Hays. Lish was, of course, please as peaches in a peach jar when Doubleday made the bold move of publishing her first novel and first collection on the same day…

Lishy writers Yannick Murphy and Leon Rooke are also included in this nifty neat anthology of a bygone era.

5 responses »

  1. Portia Krieger

    Hi –

    I’m working on a production of a new Theresa Rebeck play featuring Alan Rickman as a Lish-like character. I’ve been asked to do some Lish research, and I’m wondering how I might get a full copy of the article you quote in your post on Diane Williams’ interview with Lish. Let me know if you can help…


    • Portia Krieger

      Or rather…Patricia Lear’s interview…it’s late for research…

      • Damnation Portia! I didn’t see this until now. Oh well. I am planning to come to NY soon and see the play…and I am bringing Gordon.

        Patricia Lear

  2. This comment from Portia Krieger, assistant director for Ms Rebeck’s play, Seminar, gives the lie to the playwright’s contention that her subject is not Lish at all but David Milch. Why deny that she is employing Gordon Lish and his many distinctive characteristics to flesh out her play? Odd.

    • I saw the play…and as one who knows Lish well, it isn’t Lish. There is only the faintest resemblance to Gordon. But it isn’t Gordon. Gordon is way better.


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