Word from Knopf is that Sonny Mehta is still in negotiations with Andrew Wylie about what to do with The Beginners, the controversial volume of unedited, Gordon Lish-less Raymond Carver stories that Knopf originally published in 1981 as What We Talk About. Carver’s widow, Tess Gallagher, has long been trying to get The Beginners into print, arguing that it is more faithful to her late husband’s vision for his stories than the version that was published. Mr. Wylie took up the Carver account last year, after differences over the drafts project led Ms. Gallagher to part ways with super-agent Binky Urban of ICM.
Some in Carver’s inner circle—namely Knopf editor Gary Fisketjon, who was Carver’s editor at the time of his death—were not on board with the idea. Consequently, Knopf turned it down when Ms. Gallagher first brought them the pitch in early 2007, and about six months later, a Knopf attorney sent a letter to Ms. Gallagher’s attorney stating that any attempt to publish the original drafts with another house would be treated as a copyright infringement.
Mr. Wylie is apparently trying to work things out. Still, the fact that the collection is back on the table at Knopf at all is surprising. According to Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity for Knopf, the negotiations could remain in a deadlock for some time. Mr. Mehta, it seems, has not made up his mind about how he wants to deal with Ms. Gallagher’s vision. “I think there are a number of sensitivities involved here, not the least of which was Gary’s initial reaction,” Mr. Bogaards said. “It could go on as the longest negotiation in book publishing history.”
He added: “Who knows what the ultimate version of this deal might look like, or if it’s something that even comes to pass?”