I must admit to being skeptical when I began this collection. The first two stories were so lean I had trouble imagining the great heights to which these tales would supposedly soar. I thought the reviews must have been born of the freshness of his voice rather than some enduring quality still recognizable these years later. Boy, was I wrong. The strength of these stories is cumulative. Each taken on its own might not in fact pack the whollop the collection manages together. They build, stacking transgression upon transgression, layering quiet intricacies within each spare description, compelling you forward. You do not want to stop. You must stop, though, between each one to breathe for a moment. To consider what Carver is doing. To ask yourself the difficult questions: Did Scotty die, or did the bakery simply call back about the cake? Could I fall into an affair with a stranger so easily? Does it matter if Stuart killed that girl, or is it enough to have simply ignored her lifeless body as he ignores his wife's lifeless spirit every day?
I made myself put the book down last night, but I felt I could probably consume the rest of it in a moment. So, maybe that moment is now.