Wing Ka CHU

Date of Award


Degree Type

UG Dissertation (Restricted)



First Advisor

Dr. CHAN Wing-Chun Julia


There is a controversy concerning the editing effect of Gordon Lish on Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love after the publication of the manuscript of the same book named Beginners. The opinions of contemporary reviewers are polarized: some fully support Lish’s editing, while others fully support Carver’s original version. However, these debates have not adequately explored an alternative and dualistic possibility in this controversy: Lish can both improve and worsen Carver’s works. I investigate this duality by closely examining the Lish-edited version and the Carver-original version of two short stories, “Gazebo” and “So Much Water So Close to Home.” In comparison, I show how the former is improved and the latter is worsened, even though Lish’s style of editing is roughly the same in both. Lish creates different effects for each version of the short story with a similar editing style. When the edited version brings out the theme more clearly it can be an improvement; whereas if the edited version blurs the theme, it can be a detriment. Therefore, we should evaluate this matter on a case-by-case basis because there is not a uniform way to understand the editing process. This approach to the Carver-Lish controversy somehow does not gain enough attention, yet it is vital for exploring the debate since it sheds light for readers to evaluate the two versions of the same book differently.



Recommended Citation

Chu, W. K. (2022). Editing is an improvement and a detriment: A comparative analysis of "What we talk about when we talk about love" and "Beginners" (UG dissertation, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from