“Accordingly, we cannot comprehend Lish’s contribution to literature without an awareness that composition cuts across ontology, not only aesthetics. For example, Jason Lucarelli has expertly essayed “consecution” as a writerly toolkit. But a more complete reconstruction of this concept would call for the following thought: consecution may be less a methodology than a metaphysic; a miraculating agent; an instance of spirit or pneuma submerged in the world. In Lucretius, the force of composition is described as a clinamen—our world is born from a “swerving” of atoms in their fall from heaven. Such is the purpose served by Peru’s perpetual swerving, rhyming and recursion. Each consecutive swerve steps closer toward a total curvature that delimits the work as a world apart. Peru is a paradigm of the artwork as a formally closed system. Hence, what has been called “consecution” is not a matter of mere wordplay; it is the way in which such a system defines its horizon.”
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Michelle Burke: You worked with Lish when he was an editor at Knopf?
Christine Schutt: Yes. That must have been fifteen years after Columbia, and I had been writing all that time—not successfully, but writing—and raising children and teaching, and doing a lot of living. He was the first to tell me all a writer had to have was one good sentence. His simply pointing that out made all the difference in the world. I didn’t have to know where I was going; I didn’t need a plan. Gordon pointed out that if you had one good sentence, and you looked at it long and hard and took from it what term was most charged for the next sentence, this was a legitimate way to proceed. In many ways, it was easy, because I’d been writing sentences and laboring over opening sentences for years. My starts were great, but once finished with the opening sentence, I looked ahead instead of behind me to find and take up the most provocative terms in the first sentence.