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This is his masterpiece. The essential Carver work.
am 21. März 1998
Raymond Carver's friend Tobias Wolff (see Carver's essay on his friendship with Wolff and Pulizer Prize winner Richard Ford in Carver's collection NO HEROICS,PLEASE) said that when he read the short story "Cathedral" for the first time he had the feeling he was levitating off the couch where he was stretched out reading. I had the same response to this essential work WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LOVE as I emerged from my college library where I should have been studying, but was transfixed by this book I had just picked up by chance the day before. I had the feeling that I was floating across the campus toward the cafeteria for my evening meal after reading this book in one sitting. Who is Raymond Carver? Who is this guy ?, I kept saying to myself, feeling that all the persons and places I passed just NOW were the loveliest things I'd ever seen. How could anyone make me feel like that? I'm still wondering today and that was fourteen years ago! I might talk about Raymond Carver in very sophisticated terms today but my initial primal response still seems inexplicable. I have read everything I could get my hands on that Carver ever wrote or said, but this is the book in which Carver captured the solitary American experience at its heartfelt core. It shows what happens to us, the price we pay for our dreams , loves, and terrors. Or what is, perhaps, as the American poet Michael Palmer has characterized it: the "psychic cost of the American project." Carver wrote this book in the late 1970's just after alcoholism nearly killed him and he had given up everything just to SURVIVE (including, he thought back then, any sense that he might ever write again). My recommendation goes beyond the fact that this is my first and favorite Carver book. Why? This is it! This is where he did it. He stripped the prose here to its poetic core , and it was a wager, a Mallarmean throw of the dice; he would or would not write again with this book. The stories individually are astonishing, but together they become something larger, and more harrowing , and "dynamic". The stories turn into a work, That uniquely human thing we construct with our HANDS from whatever materials are there for us. Carver's whole life and attention are here , and whatever price he paid for that strange attentiveness which was uniquely his own (he's called called it "vision" in one of his essays from FIRES) it came together( ALL of it nearly) here in these pages. It is Carver, more than perhaps anyone else who did this kind of writing in the 70's and 80's who gave me the revelatory sense I have of what I would wish to care for most in my life . And how I might begin that difficult task every day that is given me. CARE. Carver must have loved that word. As the poet Robert Duncan has pointed out: "All the events, things and beings, of our life move then with the intent of a story revealing itself."