Krupp's Lulu

Gordon Lish, Author Thunder's Mouth Press $22 (304p) ISBN 978-1-56858-154-5
Lish has gone through many literary incarnations. Fiction editor at Esquire in the '70s, he famously mentored Raymond Carver; then he flourished as a Knopf editor and writing teacher who himself writes experimental and on-the-edge fiction (Dear Mr. Capote, etc.). In his latest collection, he definitely falls off that edge. His guiding principle is revealed at the beginning of ""Louche with You,"" one of the 16 pieces here: `You got some time? Because there's some stuff I'm getting off my chest. That's how come I'm doing this. It's this stuff."" Indeed, this is sheer stuff, maddeningly vague, meandering from pointless beginnings to pointless endings. The first piece proper, ""Ground,"" concerns a habit from ""Gordon's"" childhood: making a walking man figure out of his thumb, index and middle fingers. Lish explores whether he used to make this figure fly or not. Throughout the collection, the reader's attention is drawn to similarly trivial matters. In ""The Positions,"" the narrator tells us that the best thing in his life is removing lint from the clothes dryer. In ""Man on the Go,"" we move to the washing machine, which is broken. In this piece there are flashes of real writing--the narrator's wife has just died (an event Lish has described in previous work), and the washing machine has also died. Since most of the stories involve descriptions of almost ineffable acts (for instance, a man seeing his fianc e lean her head a certain way), we expect that the occasion, as in poetry, will be used to construct impressive verbal artifacts. Instead, Lish offers repetitive passages dependent upon vague pronouns and cliches, failing to infuse his prose with any urgency. This isn't Beckett, this is just one thing after another--and that is the difference between skipping a rock across a pool and throwing pebbles into it. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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