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Where I’m Calling From review î 103 Volumes along with seven new works previosly unpublished in book form Together these 37 stories give us a superb overview of Carver's life work and show us why he was so widely imitated but never eualed. Miles Davis once said when asked why he played such minimalist modal melodies when his contemporaries were going for the fevered manic sound of be bop I try to only play the notes that matterThat s Raymond Carver Sparse deceptively simple and capable of tearing your soul out by hitting the right notes consistently and with puritySome of these stories sometimes didn t even strike me as I read them I d put the book down walk away and hours later not be able to shake the images Other times I d read a line and feel ashamed for my abuse of adjectives and hyperbole as a writer right then and there Carver cuts through it all and delivers the literary version of Kind of Blue in the process

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Where I’m Calling From review î 103 By the time of his early death in 1988 Raymond Carver had established himself as one of the greatest practitioners of the American short story a writer who had not only found his own voice but imprinted. I wanted the first book I read in 2018 to be special and this classic selection of stories by Raymond Carver the final book he published during his lifetime he died in 1988 at the incredibly young age of 50 fit the billHere presented in chronological order are 37 stories representing than two decades work Some of them are among the most powerful and influential works of short fiction published in the late 20th century Most are written in a clear unpretentious voice that s suffused with wisdom and hearty good humour but also a particular kind of pathos that Carver captured and knew so wellHis characters are ordinary people often from the Pacific Northwest struggling to get by and faced for the time of the story with a significant complication A couple s child might be in a coma after being struck by a car on his birthday A Small Good Thing a man might draw on his own history of violence to defend his son accused of stealing a bicycle Bicycles Muscles Cigarettes another man might worry about his restless constantly dissatisfied elderly mother Boxes Most of these stories are about marriages breaking up slowly or suddenly The marriage might have broken up already and a man it s usually a man can t deal with it he drops by his ex wife s home after he s trashed it in a jealous rage during the Christmas holidays A Serious Talk he s tasked with finding a babysitterhousekeeper for his two children Fever he s obsessed with a blockage in his ear while living on his own and constantly drinking champagne Careful Several stories feature male protagonists who are out of work while their wives take on jobs They re Not Your Husband Put Yourself In My Shoes Are These Actual Miles Vitamins And oh yeah there are drinkers Lots of drinkers Many conversations take place in a boozy haze of distraction and false cheer One of the saddest stories I ve ever read is called Gazebo about a couple who have holed themselves up in a room at the motel where they work while they drink and hash out their marital problems ignoring the customers at receptionIt contains the following paragraph about the couple s relationship to alcohol Drinking s funny When I look back on it all of our important decisions have been figured out when we were drinking Even when we talked about having to cut back on our drinking we d be sitting at the kitchen table or out at the picnic table with a six pack or whiskey And this one line in the story simply yet profoundly captures their end of the line desperation There was this funny thing of anything could happen now that we realized everything had WowReading these stories in a short period of time made me sensitive to some of Carver s techniues The faux epiphany In my review of Carver s Cathedral I already pointed out his sometimes contrived use of the narrator simply stumbling upon an epiphany I noticed it here too I don t know why but it s then I recall the affectionate name my dad used sometimes when he was talking to my mother Boxes and I d like to say it was at this moment as I stood in the fog watching her drive off that I remembered a black and white photograph of my wife holding her wedding bouuet Blackbird Pie These passages are like the author nudging us to think Oh here s the significance The story within the story Carver is excellent at having characters tell tales within tales And sometimes as in Whoever Was Using This Bed and The Student s Wife the story will become a monologue Incidentally both of these stories feature insomniacs As someone who watches a lot of plays I m sad Carver didn t write for the theatre His dialogue is so good Yes I know the films Birdman and Short Cuts draw on his work The humour I didn t appreciate just how funny Carver could be until I read What Do You Do In San Francisco a story narrated by a postman who tells us about a beatnik couple who move into the neighbourhood on his route The man s nosiness and judgements on the young couple perhaps modelled after the young Carver and his then wifegirlfriend are so amusing I literally laughed out loud while reading them He shows doesn t tell Carver can describe a gesture that in a few words precisely captures what a person s thinking He doesn t have to tell you someone s depressed or sad By showing you what they re doing you know thatSigh Writing all this makes me a little dissatisfied Picking apart Carver s stories like this takes away a bit of their magic There s a mystery at the heart of stories like Fat Cathedral A Small Good Thing Fever Why Don t You Dance and Are These Actual Miles that should stay mysteries They suggest profound things about the human condition our frailties our contradictions our attempts at redemption Much has been written about Carver s final published story Errand a loose retelling of the death of Russian playwright and short story master ChekhovThe setting of course is far removed from Carver s other fiction and I m sure it was inspired by the author s feelings about his own impending death But what you realize is that it s not the grand event itself that captures Carver s interest but the little things happening on the sidelines the small moments that only an artist like this surely Chekhov s eual in his insight into human behaviour could capture honour and make real and memorable

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Where I’m Calling From review î 103 It in the imaginations of thousands of readers 'Where I'm Calling From' his last collection encompasses classic stories from 'Cathedral' 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love' and earlier Carver. Murakami on Carver I ve never read so many stories about divorcees unhappy marriages or relationships dysfunctional families and alcoholics Carver s writing was incredibly real and this collection will definitely stay in my memory I ll be picking this up again down the track and maybe I will connect with it on a deeper level as I catch up to the ages of the characters whom are generally older than 30I d been interested in reading Carver since Haruki Murakami had consistently praised him in his interviews Murakami had translated Carver s collection over 14 years into Japanese and discussed his personal and professional life and writing in great detail in a 40 page interview devoted to Carver from this book I m lucky to be able to read as a Murakami fan Here are some excerpts my translation from the interview in September 2004 for the Japanese literary magazine Bungakukai While Carver s prose was realist his stories contained surprisingly strong anti realism components Things incredibly radical However there are some people who ignore those parts and just say What s new about his writing All these stories are just plain realism giving a simple perfunctory assessment On the other hand others insistently praise his writing He portrays the everyday lives of American blue collar workers brilliantly only gathering up what s on the surface In this sort of context I think Carver s true literary value was something difficult to ascertain We should also keep in mind that because Carver was a writer who grew up inside academicism he used to be entangled in rather fruitless debates such as Are creative writing courses meaningful For such trivial matters to settle down and a proper assessment of Carver s writing to be reached I think some time is needed but in any case I believe a fair number of the 70 something short stories Carver left will be passed onto future generations as classics p267What I think Carver did was utilise his own uniue system in slicing up the aspects of a situation or the world and reconstructing them into the shape of a story Of course this is or less something many authors attempt In that kind of operation the writing was not a ingredient that held an especially high importance for him It s just that going down that road of reconstruction in other words tightening the screw on his own system of writing fiction Carver s writing style surfaced into existence as a necessary product In the cases of Fitzgerald and Capote things sort of begin from the style of writing Needless to say that isn t everything but there s a wide domain managed by the writing However with Carver the writing style was satisfactory with being at a bare minimum Using bicycles as an example it would be a little crude to say a bike you d use for shopping but something like a ten speed bike was not necessary If the writing style was a truly necessary one then even if it wasn t attractive what mattered was that it did the job For example with such a simple sentence as The telephone rang while he was running the vacuum cleaner just plonking it at the start of a story brings a mysteriously strong presence with itI still love translating Fitzgerald and Capote but personally I don t really feel that I d like to write such elegant prose Just like with gazing at beautiful craftwork you d be impressed thinking this is wonderful but you wouldn t want to copy it Well okay even if I wanted to I wouldn t be able to and what I want to do is something very different anyway If there s something I ve learnt from Carver it s not going to be something individual that can be picked out such as the writing style techniue or storytelling It would be something like a recognition of how an author establishes their own uniue system of story composition and an efficient yet earnest way of bringing that to fruition or perhaps a readiness to vow to live life carrying that recognition pp 285 286For Raymond Carver the moral bare minimum was to write with desperation as if expending a piece of his own soul thus he couldn t stand people who didn t act on such morals He was a kind warm and gentle person but in an essay he confessed that he couldn t feel affection as a friend should towards those who compromised on writing or those he could only conclude must be compromising on writing In such cases his point is that he wouldn t say He s a nice guy but but the perspective of a nice guy disappears altogether With someone like that near you you really feel like you need to be serious and give your all p297June 25 2015

  • Paperback
  • 544
  • Where I’m Calling From
  • Raymond Carver
  • English
  • 03 May 2017
  • 9780679722311