Raymond Carver — What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.

I do not know if Raymond Carver’s America was the true America of the mid ’70s, or whether it was his own unique vision of the way things were. In a way I don’t want it to have been that America, simply because his short stories are so full of broken, fractured moments of horrible silence that I don’t know if I could have handled it.

It’s also hard to review collections of short stories, for me, anyway. Carver’s are a little easier just because the voice of them is so strong, and though the characters are different across each, the main thrust of them seems to be the same, over and over again. We have no idea what we’re talking about when we talk about love. Or when we talk at all. I’m not even going to go into the debate about Carver post-Lish or pre-Lish, because the point is that the final product, the one that everyone knows, is the iconic product. The stripped down sentences, the leanness of the stories, the many things left unwritten by the author and unsaid by the characters, half-portraits of broken lives and empty bottles.

There isn’t much hope in Carver, and reading him, you can almost feel your blood alcohol level rising. There are strange moments of beauty in the ugliness, though. And that’s why I keep reading.

He said, “I just want to say one more thing.”
But then he could not think what it could possibly be.


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