White Plains by Gordon Lish

WhiteP website cover.jpg
WhiteP website cover.jpg

White Plains by Gordon Lish


Lish’s latest collection of exquisitely crafted fictions sees a narrator – variously 'Gordon', 'I', 'He' – approaching the precipice of old age. Against the backdrop of White Plains hospital, Lish skewers together memories of long-past infidelities and betrayals, on-going friendships, the relative comfort of household chairs, to forge a series of interlinked hypnotic and consistently hilarious narratives. This is Lish at his sharpest, tackling his perennial subject – the memory of memory itself – with spellbinding mastery.

June 2017

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"Listen to me. I want to tell you something. I am not a writer. I am a rewriter. Or a re-writer. I used to think I was a revisor. Or a reviser.  But producing this book has shown me what the score was. Or is. You see? It's sick. A sickness. Much as I try, I can't leave it, or well enough, alone. 

Anyway, the point I set out to make, and have thus far not gotten to, is this – no colon, yeah? Each time I rewrite, I say what's been said a different way from how it had been said, which means that, each time I rewrite, I get, or the words get, farther and farther, or further and further, necessarily, ineluctably, from what I had, in truth, meant to say.

So that's what the deal is. That's how White Plains got itself written. And now, presto, into your hands. Falser and falser as I, or as the words, damn their eyes, went along.

You hunger for more disrobing? Buy the book." – Gordon Lish


As fiction editor of Esquire from 1969 to 1977, then as an editor at Knopf and of The Quarterly until 1995, Lish worked closely with many of the most daring writers of the past fifty years, including Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, Harold Brodkey, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Barry Hannah, Joy Williams, Anne Carson, Amy Hempel, Jack Gilbert and Ben Marcus. 

More than a dozen books have appeared under Lish’s own name – including the novels Dear Mr. Capote (1983), Peru (1986), and Zimzum (1993). These have won Lish a passionate cult following as a writer of recursive and often very funny prose.

Lish was named one of the 200 major writers of our time by the French periodical Le Nouvel Observateur. In 2015, Lish appointed the English literary critic David Winters as his authorised biographer. In France, where Lish’s work has received considerable attention, he is known as ‘The American Beckett’.


“Gordon Lish, famous for all the wrong reasons, has written some of the most important American fiction of the past ten or twelve years […] hypnotic, ever circling, a desperate entity that belies the elegance of the prose that drives it.” Don DeLillo

“With writing reminiscent of Stein or Beckett, Lish reminds his readers that the actual past and the remembered past are different, and he fleshes out every possible perspective … These details — haunting, funny, ordinary, pitiable — are the real stuff of life.” Boston Review

“Lish has produced a wealth of avant-garde prose, worthy of the pioneers of literary modernism. His writing represents the US’s answer to Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard.” The Guardian

“Lish has a well-earned reputation as the champion of certain aesthetic principles: repetition, minimalism, radical confession, and an acoustical/structural approach to the sentence that (as Gary Lutz has reported in this magazine) he calls ‘consecution’ (‘The Sentence Is a Lonely Place,’ January 2009). Nonetheless ... Lish’s methods have never been half so codified or rigid as his detractors have insisted they are. (If you can’t see the difference between Amy Hempel and Gary Lutz, or Mary Robison and Harold Brodkey, you’re on your own.) For those of us partial—even partisan—to this thing that it is neither precise nor fair to call the “Lish style,” the large and variegated back catalog is a deep, wide ocean in which to dive for treasure and pearls.” Justin Taylor, Believer Mag

“Lish is still our Joyce, our Beckett, our most true modernist.” Kirkus Reviews

What About Me?

Owing to a momentary lapse in judgement, we asked him to record a chapter of his choosing from the forthcoming book White Plains – forgetting that, with Gordon Lish, nothing is ever simple.

Instead, taking full artistic control, he produced this tantalisingly intimate audio byte 'What About Me?', in which, much like the writing in White Plains, the medium becomes the message.

"In the world of the real, one is condemned and there is no redemption"