Daniel Green at The Quarterly Conversation:
If, as Jonathan Sturgeon has suggested, we have entered an era dominated by “autofiction,” in which “the life of the author is now the novel’s organizing principle” (“2014: The Death of the Postmodern Novel and the Rise of Autofiction”), then in the search for progenitors of this literary phenomenon we might consider the fiction of Gordon Lish. Indeed, a common reaction to Lish’s books, at least since Peru (which may be his last work of fiction to predominantly feature a main character who can, to some degree at least, be separated from “Gordon Lish”) is to question whether Lish is writing fiction at all rather than some sort of free-form (some would say self-indulgent) autobiography. However, the wary reader would be just as mistaken to trust Lish’s writing to provide reliable accounts of the author’s actual experiences as to expect his “stories” to bear much resemblance to the traditional well-made short story.
That Lish’s fiction is not at all the sort of thing we would expect to emerge from most creative writing workshops, or most conventional short fiction anthologies, is perhaps surprising to readers, given Lish’s prominence as a creative writing teacher and as an editor of writers known for their short stories (most prominently, of course, Raymond Carver). It may in fact be the case that this gap between pre-established expectation and Lish’s own actual practice is wide enough to partly explain his relatively small audience, small even for avant-garde writers.