Next time I break up with someone i am accidentally (on purpose) going to take her Raymond Carver with me and not return any phone calls or text messages enquiring if I took it. I do have a best of Raymond Carver titled Where I’m Calling From, but people rave and rave about the collection: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Yes, the one that Gordon Lish took not so much as an Editorial scalpel but an editorial pick axe to. But the stories I have read from the collection are from other sublime planet.
Really in hindsight I should have dropped that copy my ex had into my boxes of books when I was moving out. Sure I could order myself a copy off Amazon, but I think the stories would have that extra little bit of edge if they were stolen after the break down of a relationship.
It is hard to single out a story from the collection that particularly stands out. The title story is not my favourite of Carver’s, I prefer the little known stories in the rest of the collection. Are they sketches? Were they once full stories that got pared back to the extent that they’re barely fit Joseph Campbell’s the hero’s journey anymore? A friend at work picked up my best of, when I had left it on my desk one day and read the a story out of it while I was away. When we next spoke, he described the work as akin to poetry. I guess poetry in the sense that it is saying so much more than the words on the page.
I like the story Gazebo. It is a story told in six moments. A lot of alcohol is involved. A man and woman arrange to manage a motel for the season. She makes the bookings, he does maintenance. But he begins to have an affair with one of the maids. The couple deteriorates. He stops doing the maintenance, she messes up the bookings. Guests refuse to stay. He thinks that they can get past it, but she knows they cannot.
I love music, and I look at wonderful collections, like I would look at my favourite albums, with the stories as tracks. To me, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love reminds me of one of my favourite David Bowie albums, Hunky Dorey. It may not seem like much on first glance, but has incredible depth. I have to be careful in case I read Carver so much that I wear a hole in the page with my eyes.
Oh yeah, and if you’re not familiar with the whole Gordon Lish editing Raymond Carver’s work, it is quite an interesting situation, whether the editing helped or hindered Carver’s work. You can check out the following link to see an example of Carver’s work before and after the edits.