By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
You studied writing with the famous iconoclast Gordon Lish — how did that happen?
I was studying writing at NYU, and I wasn’t having a very good experience. Then I read this article Amy Hempel wrote for Vanity Fair about him, and I got all excited, because he was teaching at NYU, and I thought, here was somebody who was willing to be really hard on my writing. It sounds masochistic, I know, but that’s what I wanted, somebody to be hard on me. The director of the program told me I couldn’t study with Gordon until my second year, but I went to his class. He was standing outside waiting for the classroom to empty out, and I said, “I’m Yannick Murphy, and I’m not supposed to be here,” and he must have liked that — that rebelliousness. He said, “You’re in.”
Lily Tuck — another Gordon Lish student — calls your writing “fearless.” Isn’t that something Lish demands of his students, to be fearless, to be brave?
I never really knew what he meant by that. I knew what he meant when he was talking about other people. You could see in their writing that they were being too formal, or they weren’t really using their own voice. But when he would say it to me, I was never sure what it was I had to do to be brave. It’s the hardest thing for me to conceptualize. Maybe I translate it into, “Make a better sentence, Murphy,” rather than be braver in terms of what I’m revealing to the reader. I don’t think I hold that much from the reader. You have my whole sordid emotions in this book — or lack of emotions. At times I don’t know how to be braver, and that’s a good thing and maybe why I keep writing books, so I can know what it is.
For information on hosting a reading group for Here They Come, and getting a free pizza in the process, see www.mcsweeneys.net/books/readinggroups.html.
HERE THEY COME | By YANNICK MURPHY | McSweeney’s Books | 250 pages | $22 hardcover