What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond CarverIll announce the cliche of my loving this book before you beat me to it.
Im an overeducated, mock-contemplative early-twenty-something with a penchant for strong male voices (despite my feminist leanings) and a distaste for anything too sentimental. I was raised in the tradition of Show, Dont Tell and hold this closer than even my favorite teddy (whose name is Atticus.) My middle name is Minimalism. My other middle name is Ooh, that sounds pretty.
With that out of the way, yes, of course I loved this volume, and probably for the reasons youd expect.
Raymond Carvers name should be in lights. Everyone who likes this book is going to tell you that one of Carvers strengths is his knack for understatement. Im guessing what theyre getting at is Carvers ability to keep all the mechanics of his stories imperceptible beneath the surface, with maybe a few out-of-character exceptions (the alcohol device in the title story being one). Theres also the fact that Carver seems to accomplish things in the span of one page that so many authors would kill many more trees (and possibly small children, and maybe even a puppy or two) to achieve; see the opening page of Tell The Women Were Going to see what I mean. How many authors can convincingly sum up the entire personal history of two characters in only one paragraph?
Beneath the tightness of each story there seems to be a distinctive pulse. Not the rhythm of the language. Rather, the kind of pure life energy that all artistic works strive for (or at least they should.) When stories took turns (for the worst is implicit), what startled me more than each outcome was often the fact that I was so moved by them each. Its because of this pulse that characters who existed for only 3 or 4 pages still seemed to walk off the page and become real. And thats probably what will make these stories linger in my memory.
People often seem to speak of Raymond Carvers America when theyre trying to grasp these stories. I dont know what that means, or if Raymond Carvers America is anything like mine. Whatever it is, its tortured and beautiful. And I like it.
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He writes pain and loss and despair. He writes it the way he sees it. And he sees it cold and hard and brutal. Stuart, Gordon, Mel and Vern go fishing. They see a dead body. A girl. She was wedged into some branches that stuck out over the water.
The reader gets the feeling that he may be selling all his possessions, looking to start life anew. A young couple stops by to select furniture for their new apartment. They haggle a little over prices and buy a TV and a bed. The drinking man tells the young girl to put a record on. When the music begins the man asks the couple to dance.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is a collection of short stories by American writer Raymond Carver, as well as the title of one of the stories.
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by Raymond Carver
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Perhaps, it could be argued, too famous, at least for his fiction's own good. Like those of Hemingway or any other writer similarly loved, imitated, parodied, and reviled, these stories can sometimes produce the sense of reading pastiche. That afternoon she tries to jump out the window. Mel is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right. They are like doors into Carverworld, where everyone speaks in simple declarative phrases, no one ever stops at one beer, and failure or violence are the true outcomes of the American dream. Yet these stories bear careful re-reading, like any truly important and enduring work. For one thing, Carver is one of the few writers who can make desperation--cutting your ex-wife's telephone cord in the middle of a conversation, standing on your own roof chunking rocks while a man with no hands takes your picture--deeply funny.