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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."
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am 21. Juni 2000
Raymond Carver is one of the few who has succeeded in describing the sense of everyday life in modern times, the mystery hiding behind the status quo of things, the suspended menace of a sudden revelation about life. It is the "poetry of prosaic", which Robert Altman illustrates in one of his best movies -- Short Cuts -- based on some of Carver's stories. It is the other face of the Great Dream, stories of common people, labourers, alcoholics, adulterers, always on a balance between hope and cynical delusion, when life's responsibilities weighing on each of us, overcome us and confirm that nothing is certain - marriage and family, work, health. Carver is a writer of short stories - one of the greatest in this field - who has followed in the path of the rich American tradition of Poe, Hemingway and Cheever. Inevitable his choice of the short measure, since Carver writes by subtraction, with and anti-gracious quickness, a realistic dryness of prose that makes sentences almost pure narrational algorithms, an open bundle of nerves transmitting immediate images. Carver's short stories are true and proper epiphanies, splinters of America illuminating the frozen moment where the essence of things rends the veil of a low and inconclusive reality: and everything appears clearer to us, as in the extraordinary story "Cathedral" (q.v.), where one of the main characters, a blind, succeeds in making another character draw a cathedral with his eyes shut, on a sheet. Thus the wonder, the joy for a creative experience so minimal yet so intense and revelatory.
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am 31. Mai 2000
Although I am a fan of Raymond Carver and this book, the purpose of my review is merely to clarify that the editor alluded to in the dialogue below is named Gordon Lish. It was Gordon Lish who became the fiction editor at Esquire and who first championed Raymond Carver's stories. And true, he had a hand in shaping those early fictions. It is worth noting, though, for those reviewers slinging anti-Carver invective, that Gordon Lish was an editor. That's what editors do. They read other people's work and help them make it better. Perhaps Lish was overzealous in his efforts early on. Still, I believe (although obvioulsy I was not there) that the core of the work, the vision, was Carver's. If there are others who need convincing, I suggest picking up Cathedral, Carver's last, most fully-realized collection. One read of Cathedral will, at least in the minds of sensitive, discriminating readers of literature, surely put to rest any doubts about Carver's talents as a writer. Not liking Raymond Carver is fine, but calling into question his integrity and ability based strictly on a series of rumors and sensational newspaper articles, is loony.
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am 15. Januar 2000
What the LA "reader" does not mention is that the Gottlieb connection is highly controversial -- more of an interesting theory than a fact. Even so, why criticize a young author for being influenced -- even molded -- by an editor? The author/editor relationship is complex, contentious, controversial -- and, in this case, extremely rewarding. If Gottlieb shares any credit for shaping Carver into a short story writer who can be mentioned in the same breath as Chekov and Hemingway, then I say, "Thanks a lot, Bob!" Nothing happens in the stories? C'mon, LA reader. Carver captures that unique American disconnection and emotional emptiness as well as any author imaginable. And he still manages to be funny! (Similarly, the movie "American Beauty" does a better job of being Carveresque than Altman's "Short Cuts" did.) This book is essential reading -- although "Where I'm Calling From" offers a more complete look at his entire career.
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am 9. Dezember 1997
Besides its title being just wonderful, this book, alongside all the others written by Raymond Carver, is a raw chronicle of modern world, of a rootless time and of the lives that live in it. These lives by people from the suburbs, meeting in crossroads and malls, tragic in their own plainness, looking for a hope that will never show up. Carver tells us of the people that are never on a TV literary debate, that do not buy the last book "everyone intelligent people should read"; thousands of miles from our decadent postmodern litterary intelligentsia. If you think litterature only should deal with "people worthy of being portrayed", never read Carver. It is not surprising why Carver was born in the USA. His stories tell us of the futur of our societies, of those faces we cross -me included- in the supermarket and that we despise because they do not look as succesful as us, of how a world of over-consumption lead to some to a hell call alcohol (or drugs, or bulimy, or addictions, or violence). Carver showed us the hidden face of the world we refuse to see, but which lies next door, car even the white trash and the poor also suffers . Thank you so much, Mr. Carver, for letting me know.
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am 7. Januar 2000
Please discount the inane ramblings of the "reader" from Los Angeles. He/She exposes his/her true colors with the complaint that "nothing happens" in these stories. I suppose he/she should stick to Daniel Steele or Tom Clancy. For the rest of you truly intelligent, literary people, this is one collection of short stories you cannot live without. Carver is able to express more emotion with his "minimalist" approach than most authors could ever dream of. One does not have to be overly verbose to tell a story. But don't take my word for it. Read all of Carver's books for yourself.
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am 23. Dezember 1996
The late Raymond Carver was simply one of the best American short story writers of the century. Though often (dis-)credited with inventing the "K-Mart school of writing" becasue of his lower class characters, Carver never succumbs to the excesses of minimalism, if that isn't a contradiction. He's spare but evocative--he can break your heart faster than any writer I know. Plus, one of the most insightful lines I know about alcoholism comes from Carver (this book, I believe): "Drinking's hard work if you're going to do it right." Carver is the Hemingway of the trailor court--or maybe the Beckett
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am 16. Juni 1998
What we talk about when . . . is a collection of stories that speak mountians of truth about love. Love is often viewed as a pure and simple emotion; however, Carver suggested it can be evil and complex as well. The romantic ideals are thrown aside as Carver shows us the truth. A wonderful collection of short stories digging deep in the human condition of emotions. His minimalist writing style lends the reader to believe every word written and to be opened up to the stories truth. You cannot read this collection without being changed and most likely wiser to the truth of being a human.
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Despite other reviews calling Raymond Carver 'the Hemingway of the trailer court', I am reminded of the quote by Nabokov concerning Hemingway...."Hemingway...bah! he writes books for boys!" Raymond Carver wrote about adults for adults... and, more to the point, the circumstances in which men and women find themselves when they are caught in ethical, mystical, and problematic situations that cry for release from the heart-wrenching tasks of showing compassion, friendship, and love in the willingness to choose, when faced with difficulty and despair.
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am 3. Februar 2000
I happened upon Carver completely by accident. My roommate had left behind a xerox of "A Small, Good Thing" and I started reading it, and I was so changed by it, so hurt, I decided to look up more works by this 'nobody' named Raymond Carver. I did not know how revered and influential he was. Since then, he's become one of my favorite writers. And the reader from L.A. below obviously has a personal axe to grind with Carver. I do not believe anyone would post such an ugly opinion about a dead writer unless it was vindictive.
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