Listening to the audio book selections Gordon Lish recorded to coincide with the publication of his Collected Fictions has reminded me of my own distant relationship with the man, which lasted half as long as his semi-legendary literary journal, The Quarterly.
Starting in college, I submitted stories and poems for years, before finally wearing Lish down with a prose poem/flash fiction something about Houdini. Then, a year or two after “my” Q issue hit newsstands, he visited Chicago, where I lived then, for a talk that was mostly about his dying/dead wife.
I’d brought along one of my two prized copies of Q issue 26, hoping for an inspirational inscription from the editor who’d honed the prose of my favorite writers.
Lish took a fat black marker out of one of the many pockets in his tan coveralls, a fat black marker like the kind reprobates snort for fun. Then he destroyed the cover and inside title pages of my Q, swiping a saturating, illegible scrawl that may not even be words.
I still can’t tell.