Friday, February 28, 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver
Read: 1 to 2 January 2012   
5 / 5 stars 

One of the great things about New Year's is that a night of uncommon revelry means that I have no excuse not to spend an entire day all curled up with a book and a nest of blankets. And, oh boy oh boy, did I ever stumble upon a winner of a short-story collection with this one.

Among the myriad joys to be found in these decidedly bleak little snapshots--and I place this above the unparalleled use of understatement, which is a thing that usually tickles me hardest about masterfully written prose--is the way Carver's writing style meshes so perfectly with his subject matter. The two complement each other in a way that is just awe-inspiring and humbling. It helps pack so much unspoken worth in every word that I can't believe writing teachers everywhere don't use Carver as the ideal to which all hopeful wordslingers must aspire. Unless that's to avoid intimidating the hell out of a swarm of already notoriously insecure personalities.

I don't usually like it when collections adhere to a theme but even that is executed perfectly here. The theme of love, of all its flavors and stages and disguises and warped bastardizations, and its terse representation in each piece (even the more lighthearted and less hopeless offerings) made each tale feel so densely populated with the gamut of genuinely evocative and empathetic human emotions. Carver made me care about every single character even if I wasn't supposed to. It had the bonus of making these stories feel like they could be playing out next door. The believability and raw honesty so expertly woven throughout every word in this regrettably small collection just made every little moment so palpable in a way few writers can ever hope to manage.

Is this what all of Carver's stuff is like? If so, it's not unreasonable to say that I will be revisiting his writing soon. I have at least one why-didn't-I-read-this-guy-sooner moment every year and.... uh, it looks like this year's instance couldn't wait to say its hullos.

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