Eurozine has what looks to be a post-My Struggle essay by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Despite declaring My Struggle to be his end as an author, he published a book of essays after it and looks to still be writing . . .
The job of literary editor is practised under a kind of shadow cast by the author’s name. Though some editors have emerged from the sidelines, they tend to be thought of as notorious rather than famous because “editor” and “famous” are somehow inherently incompatible concepts – a contradiction in terms. Gordon Lish is a case in point: among other tasks, he was Raymond Carver’s editor and became known as “Captain Fiction”. Hemingway’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, who A. Scott Berg dubbed “Editor of Genius”, is another example. One of the best-known editorial interventions ever was made by Ezra Pound, although he was of course not really an editor but the one who scrutinized, in his capacity as a friend, an early version of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and pruned it ruthlessly until he achieved the format we know now.
Gordon Lish’s style as an editor was just as independent and uncompromising. His editing actually created the language we now believe to be Carver’s and which undoubtedly contributed to making his name as a writer, even though the author himself felt ambivalent about it. The difference was there for all to see when Carver’s own manuscripts were published posthumously and his padded, fluid stories seemed almost unrecognizable. There can be no real argument about the conclusion that the editor’s Carver was an improvement on Carver’s Carver. How did that make Carver feel when he was awarded prizes and praise for being the great new name in American literature, one wonders? The example is interesting, because if the job of the editor is to influence matters for the sake of the book and not for his own benefit, nor even the author’s, then it can be argued that Lish went too far; but relative to what? Given that the book became much better, is the damage done to the author’s self-esteem really so important? Without Lish, Carver’s books would have been worse and he would have been regarded as a middling, rather than a brilliant, writer. This fact leads one to question what an author is – and where the boundaries lie between the writer, the world around him and his book. . . .