I'm afraid that Tess Gallagher, unwittingly and with all good intentions, has done Raymond Carver's reputation as a significant American writer permanent harm. It will not be possible for future readers and students of Carver's fiction to approach it without the question of its authenticity lingering somewhere in the background--in some cases, as in academic courses featuring Carver on the syllabus, without the question being addressed directly. "Is this one of those stories his editor rewrote for him?" will almost certainly be asked by those encountering his work for the first time and by critics assessing his place in late 20th century American literature. He might utimately be remembered more as a case study in the fraught relationship between some writers and their editors than as a great American short story writer (which I think he is, even after learning the extent to which Carver's signature understated style and de-dramatized plots were imposed on him by Gordon Lish.)
However much Gallagher believes that Carvers's initial, more expansive (and frankly more ordinary) drafts are the "true, original” versions of his stories, they are not the stories that those of who read his books as they were published encountered and that made his name as a post-postmodern writer of consequence. They are not what we think of when we think of a "Raymond Carver story," and whether Carver sacrificed his "artistic integrity" by giving in to Lish or willingly took advice that actually improved his stories is by this time mostly irrelevant. Carver never repudiated the Lish-edited stories, and republished them without changing them, so this is not really a situation analagous to that of the filmmaker who later re-releases a "director's cut" to restore what had initially been eliminated by commercially driven producers. In effect, a third party is making editorial decisions the author did not and cannot now agree to, and a different writer is being presented to us in place of the one we thought we knew.
Traver Kauffman (the Rake), who prefers the un-Lished stories, suggests that "re-publishing is fine insofar as the people behind it realize that what they're putting out is going to be mostly of scholarly interest and probably will not serve to change any minds." I'm not at all sure this is true. If enough people do prefer the "restored" stories, they will remain in print and available as "alternative" versions, and some scholars will do doubt use the restored versions when teaching Carver, or at least present them along with the "original" versions as an exercise in comparative analysis. Far from changing minds about Carver, the existence of the "true, original" stories will work to influence future readers in making up their minds about this writer in the first place. At some point examining the original drafts for their "scholarly interest" is fine, but having two different versions--in effect, two different texts--competing for approbation as the "real" work of Raymond Carver is not merely an academic matter. It may finally substitute the editorial controversy for the actual consideration of Carver's fiction as literary art.
The Rake further suggests that it would be useful for other contemporary writers to publish earlier drafts of their work, allowing the reader to pursue the pressing question "How Was It Done?". For those interested enough in a particular writer to want to read discarded drafts and other marginalia, it is probably true that such an offering would simply satisfy a curiosity and wouldn't really affect their estimation of the writer's published work. I myself have never been much interested in the "how" question. I'm more concerned with the "what": What kind of work is this? What's going on? If reading alternative versions of a work of fiction helps me to better answer these questions, I am willing to examine them. If what I find there somehow enhances my subsequent reading experiences, it will have been a worthwhile exercise. If it merely illustrates "the actual human effort behind the pages, the grinding, nuts and bolts stuff," as the Rake further puts it, it doesn't seem worth the time, since I'm pretty sure I already know that writing involves much grinding.
That two separate texts of some of Carver's stories are in circulation, however, isn't really equivalent to the scholarly edition offering glimpses into the writing process. At best, it requires that we consider each of them separately, that we in some ways take them as two different stories. We can prefer one of them over the other, but the very act of reading them in this way makes it impossible to identify either one of them as the "real" Carver story. Future anthologists will have to decide which text best represents Carver as a writer nevertheless, and the decision will unavoidably be subjective, if not completely arbitrary.
As an erstwhile scholar of postmodernism, I am perfectly comfortable with indeterminacy and dislocation. I understand that texts can be elusive, unstable, self-contradictory. But a literal instability between different versions of the "same" text is a bit too pomo even for me. My introduction to Carver came through the Lish-edited stories that to me signalled a break from the formal experiments and self-reflexivity of postmodern American fiction but did not merely return to old-fashioned storytelling. The severely pared-back minimalism of these stories seemed to accept the postmodern critique of representation if not its alternative strategies. Character and plot are stripped to the bone, the former presented to us entirely through mundane actions, with no attempt at "psychological realism" (thus we never really get to "know" Carver's characters, we just watch them wandering through their lives), the latter flattening out Freytag's triangle to an unemphatic succession of events. It's these stories that offered a Raymond Carver engaged in his own kind of experimentation (how bare and uninflected can realism become while still maintaing our interest?), which as far as I can tell is mostly absent in the more elaborated but conventional Lish-less originals. Even if Gordon Lish did essentially co-author the published stories, that's still the Raymond Carver I'd rather have.