Raymond Carver's spare dramas of loneliness, despair, and troubled relationships breathed new life into the American short story of the 1970s and '80s. In collections such as Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Carver wrote with unflinching exactness about men and women enduring lives on the knife-edge of poverty and other deprivations. Beneath his pared-down surfaces run disturbing, violent undercurrents. Suggestive rather than explicit, and seeming all the more powerful for what is left unsaid, Carver's stories were held up as exemplars of a new school in American fiction known as minimalism or "dirty realism," a movement whose wide influence continues to this day. Carver's stories were brilliant in their detachment and use of the oblique, ambiguous gesture, yet there were signs of a different sort of sensibility at work. In books such as Cathedral and the later tales included in the collected stories volume Where I'm Calling From, Carver revealed himself to be a more expansive writer than in the earlier published books, displaying Chekhovian sympathies toward his characters and relying less on elliptical effects.
In gathering all of Carver's stories, including early sketches and posthumously discovered works, The Library of America's Collected Stories provides a comprehensive overview of Carver's career as we have come to know it: the promise of Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? and the breakthrough of What We Talk About, on through the departures taken in Cathedral and the pathos of the late stories. But it also prompts a fresh consideration of Carver by presenting Beginners, an edition of the manuscript of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love that Carver submitted to Gordon Lish, his editor and a crucial influence on his development. Lish's editing was so extensive that at one point Carver wrote him an anguished letter asking him not to publish the book; now, for the first time, readers can read both the manuscript and published versions of the collection that established Carver as a major American writer. Offering a fascinating window into the complex, fraught relation between writer and editor, Beginners expands our sense of Carver and is essential reading for anyone who cares about his achievement.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
|Publisher:||Library of America|
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About the Author
Raymond Carver (1938-1988), the author of such landmark collections as Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (1976), What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981), and Cathedral (1983), was perhaps the most influential short-story writer of his generation.
William L. Stull, editor, is professor of English at the University of Hartford.
Maureen P. Carroll is adjunct professor of humanities at the University of Hartford and a practicing attorney. With William Stull she has devoted more than two decades to the work of Raymond Carver, publishing numerous essays and editing Conversations with Raymond Carver (1990), Remembering Ray: A Composite Biography(1993), All of Us: The Collected Poems (1996), and Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose (2000).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've been rediscovering Raymond Carver. Turns out he wasn't a minimalist after all. Even though that's what he's famous for.His editor, Gordon Lish, was the minimalist, slashing many of Carver's stories by half. Others by even more. This was especially true in the case of the groundbreaking collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.Now, in a new volume called Raymond Carver: Collected Stories, we get to see the writer's original drafts along with the cut-down versions of those stories.The originals are better.I say that even though I've always been a big fan of minimalism.(For a good visual of Lish's edits, check out "Beginners," Edited in The New Yorker.)It's hard to say how successful Carver would have been without Lish. It was Lish who gave him his first national exposure in Esquire and championed him with agents and editors.And Carver was forever grateful to him for changing his life.Because of Lish, who moved from Esquire to Knopf, Carver became known as "the foremost practitioner of minimalist fiction," as the new dust jacket indicates. But the original stories were not only much longer, they were far richer and, for me, more deeply felt.Lish was clearly a talented editor, and I admire many of his changes (as did Carver). Still, I seriously doubt that we would know the name Gordon Lish if it weren't for Carver.So both men benefited, I suppose, but it's heart-breaking to read the long letter Carver wrote to Lish ¿ included in the notes to the new volume ¿ begging him not to move ahead with his radically altered version of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.It's hard not to think of Lish as an ass.The contract for that book gave Lish the final say, but that changed for the next collection, Cathedral, and Carver accepted only minor changes.So, clearly Carver had a boatload of talent all on his own, but he still might have labored in obscurity without the big break Lish gave him.And now we get to see the original versions and Carver is back in the news and selling more books and it all turns out for the best.I love a happy ending.
I read this because I have always heard what a great short story writer Carver was. Although I enjoyed his portrayal of the fringes of society that his characters dealt in, I found his style and abrupt endings got old very quickly. I did appreciate that he left it to the reader to fill in the blanks but overall when it comes to short stories I will take John Cheever and Alice Munro.
Currently reading this book because it's listed on Esquire's Top 75 List.
For those who enjoy stories with messages and morals this is an excellent book. Raymond Carver keeps his characters varied and the plots are just as unpredictable, but no matter the plot or characters there is a message deeply imbedded in his writing that strikes a chord, and by the end of this book you will gain a new perspective on certain things in life. Not to say it preaches only that his descriptive style and impacting dialogue really make you stop and think, and the two recommendations have similar but unique styles of writing that are equally enjoyable. Another aspect of Carver I found unique is the irony of his characters and the conflicts without conflict. Without revealing too much this relates to my comment of unpredictable plot and characters so if you want to find out you have to read for yourselves.