Linda: You’ve probably been interviewed before, right?
Josh Lukin: Actually, I am usually on the other end. As a matter of fact, I have a number of author interviews, including this one (points to the one about Chandler Davis at the back of the book).
Buffalo Books: The first question I have—you just sort of fed right into it—When you are the editor of a book, in what ways is that like being a writer? And in what ways is it way sharply different?
Josh Lukin: Well, it’s different kinds of approaches. Editing itself has different kinds of approaches. I’ve edited by putting an academic journal together, putting critical essays together, sometimes involves plenty of diplomatic interaction with the authors going back and forth—Can you revise here, can you revise there—they’re not quite at your beck and call the way that a classroom full of students is. One scholar was sufficiently affronted by the fact that I would touch his glorious work that he pulled out.
Buffalo Books: Interestingly enough, one of my later questions you just touched on, so I’ll approach it now. I was looking at the title story—It walks in beauty—and you noticed that an editor took a different approach and you alerted the author.
Josh Lukin: Yes, I noticed it was being reprinted on the internet a few years ago that was not the preferred version. It was the version that had been messed about with by a science fiction editor in the 1950’s. He had taken out the spark of hopefulness and made it a very bleak and dystopian story. When I found out that Ellen Datlow was reprinting it, I got in touch with David to find out and yes, I was the one who alerted him to that.
Buffalo Books: So you were being the editor’s editor.
Yeah, I’m enough of a purist and a perfectionist to pay attention to those things. So in regards to your initial question, it’s all about my enthusiasm for the writer. It’s all about celebrating what the work accomplishes. I’m about literature that I can love.
Buffalo Books: This particular story—It walks in beauty—I hooked into it because it was the title story—the title reminds me of the poem She walks in beauty—is that a purposeful reference?
Lukin: Yes. In the 1950’s, society depicted the story in which to become a career girl, you were regarded as a complete neuter which was not too far off from a lot of women’s experiences in the 1950’s.
Buffalo Books: I think women are quite sensitive still to that whole issue of what you do or don’t need to do to conform. But the use of “it” here? You are saying that refers to that issue of the 1950’s.
Lukin: Especially for a guy like Chandler Davis with his left-wing background, he would have had a strong feeling that the world of work and the world of human beings dealing with the material is what’s real, and that the fantasies are the world of ideology.
Buffalo Books: Your Buffalo experience. You were in graduate school here?
Lukin: I was in graduate school here from 1995-2003. I hooked up with—oh, I guess hooked up with means something different to kids nowadays—well, connected with a number of UB professors and got the dissertation done. Went to the Kavinoky and the Studio Arena and Ujima and the theater at Daemen College.
Buffalo Books: So you really are a Buffalonian in spirit.
Well, I never ate beef on weck! I’ve had wings at the Anchor Bar, I’ve had wings at Duff’s. Dr. Bird’s Jamaican jerk wings down the street would be my favorite.
It Walks in Beauty: Selected prose of Chandler Davis
Heirloom Books 1
Edited and with an Introduction by Josh Lukin
Buffalo Books is published on Sundays. To qualify, books are written by a present or former Buffalonian, or feature a Buffalo setting or plot.
Contact Linda at [email protected] to nominate a book or author.