Ray Carver captivated me the very first time I read this story. He seemed both broken and whole, knowing and confused, and it's only recently that I'm coming to realize the extent of power that was wielded over him by an editor. Gordon Lish was a great discoverer, but not a great writer. But for all of his meddling, and the extent to which he altered truths and minimized character, Carver's stories were not destroyed. It's kind of amazing when you start to read through the rough drafts, startling to see the broad-handed strokes of difference.
Carver's anthology came out recently and I'm interested to read it. I might go to the library some time this week to see if they have it. Until then, I'll have to make do with one of my favorite collections of his:
A look at Ray Version vs. Lish's:
My friend MelHerb
, a cardiologist,
was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right. ¶ The four of us were sitting around his kitchen table drinking gin.
Terri said the man she lived with before she lived with Mel
loved her so much he tried to kill her.
Herb laughed after she said this. He made a face. Terri looked at him.
“My God, don’t be silly. That’s not love, and you know it,” Mel
said. “I don’t know what you’d call it,
—madness is what I’d call it—
but I sure know you wouldn’t call it
“Say what you want to, but I know it was
he loved me
,” Terri said. “
I know he did.
It may sound crazy to you, but it’s true just the same. People are different, Mel
let out his breath. He held his glass and turned to Laura and me. “The man
threatened to kill me,
“Now he wants to make up,” Terri said.
“After he tries to dump on me.” She wasn’t smiling.
“Make up what?” Mel
said. “What is there to make up? I know what I know. That’s
, and that’s
“What would you call it then?” Terri said.
“How’d we get started on this subject anyway?” Terri said. She raised her glass and drank from it. “Herb always has love on his mind,” she said. “Don’t you, honey?” She smiled
, and I thought that was the last of it.
“I just wouldn’t call Ed
’s behavior love. That’s
all I’m saying, honey,” Mel
“I’m the wrong person to ask
,” I said. “I didn’t even know the man. I’ve only heard his name mentioned in passing.
Mel said, “The kind of love I’m talking about is
,” Herb said
The kind of love I’m talking about, you don’t try to kill people.”