Books and Reviews

I decided to purge myself of the non-fiction for a time and chose Raymond Carver's acclaimed short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories.  I have read his "Where I'm Calling From" as part of the Best American Short Stories of the Century text that I teach from but notably chose not to include him on the syllabus.  I'm interested to see where this collection carries my view of him.  The first stories (I read 2 last night) are rather remarkable in their way.  I agree with the Amazon reviewer that commented on the inimitable first lines of Carver.  I mean, seriously: A man without hands came to the door to sell me a photograph of my house (11).  That there takes some chutzpah. 

Perhaps more remarkable are the reviews excerpted in the front.  Sometimes, I think the writing is better in the review than in the book reviewed.  Here's an example from reviewer Denis Donoghue:
In Raymond Carver's stories, it is dangerous even to speak.  Conversation completes the damage people have already done to one another in silence. 

Or this from Stanley Elkin (another one in the text but not in the syllabus): They're real as discount stores, time clocks, the franchises in small towns, bad marriages.  His rumpled men and ragged women will break your heart. 

You could argue, I suppose, that their writing is inspired and improved by Carver's. You must also recognize their own great gifts in the field.  Either way, I just hope the book measures up.

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