Carver Edited by William L. Stull and Maureen P. Carroll

August 28, 2009
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Edited by William L. Stull and Maureen P. Carroll

The Library of America
Hardcover/960 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59853-046-9
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". . . a significant contribution to the literary world . . ."

Once in a while a book finds its way into your life and you wonder how you existed without it. When I received Carver, a collection of short-stories and essays written by 20th century American writer Raymond Carver, I discovered compelling, insightful and provocative writing.

Carver’s trademark is his writing style known as “dirty realism” (originating in the U.S. in the 1980s) and “minimalist.” His style displays sentences stripped down with great attention to detail, surface descriptions, and chilling but honest character dialogue. This is aptly illustrated in the opening line of his short story “Viewfinder”:

“A man without hands came to the door to sell me a photograph of my house.” Then the photographer says, “I might use your toilet.” Carver details how the trip to the toilet becomes a major problem for a man with only hooks for hands.

The reader is drawn into the seamy and mundane lives of ordinary people. His stories hold the reader in a vise, forcing the reader not to divert his or her eyes away from people’s sadness and despair.

In his short story “Why Don’t You Dance” a young couple stops at a yard sale where the furniture is propped on the lawn like a movie set— electricity even runs to the lamp on the table next to the bed. The owner engages the couple in conversation, offers them drinks, reveals his miserable life, turns on music and encourages the couple to dance. Neighbors watch as the couple lie on the bed and then darkness comes.

In “Beginners” two married couples discuss “love” as they drink gin throughout the afternoon. Like Russian nesting dolls, stories within stories about “love” are revealed. The room fills with tension and depression with a dramatic backdrop, a setting sun.

In addition to the short stories and essays, this compilation includes for the first time Carver’s original manuscript, What We Talk About When We Talk about Love, as well as the edited version. Carver, so committed to his style, opposed the revised manuscript and requested the revised book not be published.

Carver, edited by William L. Stull and Maureen P. Carroll for The Library of America, makes a significant contribution to the literary world. It puts Carver alongside Anton Chekhov, among the most notable of short-story writers.


Reviewer: Kate Padilla


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This post was written by Kate Padilla

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