Collection ID: LMC 2860
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Collection context


Lish, Gordon and Meats, Stephen
The Lish mss. II, 1988, consists of five brief annotated notes from writer and editor Gordon Lish, 1934- , to poet Stephen Meats, 1944- .
1 Folder
Materials are in English .
Preferred citation:

[Item], Lish mss. II, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.


Biographical / Historical:

Gordon Lish, 1934- , is an American literary editor and writer. He was born and raised in Hewlett, New York, and graduated from the University of Arizona. He became founder and editor of the avant-garde literary magazine Genesis West, and went on to serve as editor for Esquire from 1969-1977 and Alfred A. Knopf from 1977-1995. Known as "Captain Fiction," Lish mentored and championed several of the most prominent American authors of the second half of the 20th century, including Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Cynthia Ozick, Barry Hannah, James Dickey, Richard Ford, Amy Hempel, and T. Coraghessan Boyle. Lish is the author of Dear Mr. Capote, Peru, What I Know So Far, and other literary works. He is renowned for his writing seminars, held at many universities across the country, as well as the Center for Fiction in New York City.

Stephen Meats, 1944- , is an American poet. He was born in LeRoy, Kansas and raised in Concordia. He attended Kansas State University before transferring to the University of South Carolina in 1965. He went on to earn his bachelor's (1966), master's (1968), and doctoral degree (1972) in English. After teaching at the Air Force Academy and the University of Tampa, Meats became a Professor of English at Pittsburg State University in 1979. He also served as the poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly from 1985 to 2016.

Lish and Meats began corresponding when Lish accepted some of Meats' poems for publication in The Quarterly. Their friendship progressed to the point that Lish agreed to serve as judge for a creative writing contest directed by Meats, The Roberts Writing Awards, and he traveled to Pittsburg State University (Kansas) at Meats' invitation to give a fiction reading in 1989 or 1990. The reading, held in a small, non-denominational chapel on campus, caused quite a stir and was one of the main reasons the chapel's governing board decided to stop hosting events from the reading series. Lish didn't actually read at all, but rather seemed to create a fiction extemporaneously on the spot without script or even notes. The story dealt with a male narrator who was trying to balance the demands of his mistress, unhappy over the fact the Oster vibrator they were using had quit working, and his wife, unhappy because he was unable to provide an air conditioner cold enough for her comfort. (Parts of this narrative became incorporated in a story that appears in Lish's Zimzum.) The vibrator was too much for the chapel's governing board, and they nixed future readings.

The event was recorded on video. The student videographer set up the camera on a tripod in the aisle in front of the stage. Lish started his performance on stage, but as he continued narrating, his focus shifted from the audience to the camera. He came down off the stage into the aisle and began slowly advancing, forcing the student to keep moving the tripod back until he reached the limit of the extension cord. This video is NOT included with this collection.

Details of this particular event are courtesy of Stephen Meats, provided June 22, 2015. A copy of Meats' account, written in the first-person narrative, is included with the collection.

Scope and Content:

The Lish mss. II consists of five brief annotated notes from Gordon Lish to Stephen Meats. These notes are editorial in nature, regarding some of Meats' early poetry submissions to The Quarterly.

Acquisition information:
Gift: 2015

This collection is arranged following original order.

Physical location:
Lilly - Short



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[Item], Lish mss. II, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

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