View Full Version : Producers and editors: the hidden shadows

Julian Karswell
09-16-2009, 07:59 PM
Editors - like record producers - often contribute to the 'end product' of an artistic endeavour. Having examined the archives at Kings College, Cambridge, it seems likely that M.R. James' publishers did not edit his work beyond tentatively highlighting the odd grammatical flaw. In contrast, I am quite sure that Charles Dickens and Mary Braddon input heavily into work they published in their roles as editors on those staple Victorian journals 'All The Year Round' and 'Belgravia'.

In the music world, I should imagine that Radiohead have very firm ideas about how they would like their music produced whereas The Beatles and U2 collaborated with George Martin and Brian Eno.

Here's an interesting example of producer input.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Relax' prior to Trevor Horn's involvement:

YouTube - Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax (demo version) Live on The TUBE (plus Interview ) - Video in HD

The same song afterwards:

YouTube - Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax (Don't Do It)

Are writers ashamed of collaborating with others, whether it be a fellow writer or an editor? Are they by nature wolverines, living in curmudgeonly isolation?


09-17-2009, 01:15 AM
I don't know if you've heard about this, but there is currently a controversy involving the late short-story writer Raymond Carver and his editor Gordon Lish. Carver's stories have a very high reputation, at least in the U. S. He was known for his spare, carefully controlled prose. His stories aren't quite my cup of tea, but the few I've read are certainly well done, and the best of them are powerful and memorable. Anyway, it has long been known that Carver's stories were edited extensively by Gordon Lish. How extensively was not known until recently, when some of the stories were republished as Carver originally wrote them. Now some people are saying that the original stories are inferior to the Lish-edited versions, and that Carver's characteristic spare prose was evidently not a product of his own talent but of Lish's editing. I haven't seen any of the republished stories, and I don't know if this is a fair judgment.

Even if many writers weren't control freaks to begin with, the possibility of having one's reputation torpedoed in this way would be quite enough to explain why writers are so tetchy about allowing editorial collaboration, and so eager to downplay it when it has occurred. Musicians don't seem to be as burdened by the expectation that they be sole creators, "onlie begettors," perhaps because so much music is collaborative to begin with.

09-17-2009, 11:51 PM
Primary Sources: Edited : The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/online/2007/12/24/071224on_onlineonly_carver)

This link is interesting, in that by using bolds and strike-throughs, shows the differences between the Carver original and a Lish edit.

Of course, even this visual depiction might be a little misleading. This was shown to us in a course I was taking, and a number of students flipped out, saying stuff like "Lish started changing things for no reason! Even the name, the very third word!" as if Lish were cutting and adding as he read the first time (the way we read the story with its edits).