Gordon Lish is a traveler from a country no longer extant, a country where editors were princes and writers kings. A country where the publishing fiefdoms of Manhattan were proud castles in the sky, where the desperate flailings of The Real Housewives of Pittsburgh never made the gossip pages, but the seating arrangements at Elaine’s always did.

In the 1970s, at Esquire, Lish was “Captain Fiction.” He then spent almost two decades at Knopf, publishing the likes of Don DeLillo, Cynthia Ozick and Barry Hannah. With his risen cheekbones, flowing hair and linear mouth, Lish resembled one of the patrician squires he encountered at Andover, not a Jewish milliner’s son from Long Island. He drank with the best of them and, when drunk, said things that were often cruel and sometimes true. Today, his refrigerator is full of Beck’s.

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