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Elephant Paperback – 3 Sep 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The Harvill Press; New edition edition (3 Sept. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860465005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860465000
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,536,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, in 1938. His first short stories appeared in Esquire during Gordon Lish's tenure as fiction editor in the 1970s. Carver's work began to reach a wider audience with the 1976 publication of Will You Please be Quiet, Please, but it was not until the 1981 publication of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love under Gordon Lish, then at Knopf, that he began to achieve real literary fame.

This collection was edited by more than 40 per cent before publication, and Carver dedicated it to his fellow writer and future wife, Tess Gallagher, with the promise that he would one day republish his stories at full length.

He went on to write two more collections of stories, Cathedral and Elephant, which moved away from the earlier minimalist style into a new expansiveness, as well as several collections of poetry. He died in 1988, aged fifty.

Product Description


"Carver's stories celebrate some lasting aspects of the human condition, however minimal, conjuring up a quality of fellow feeling, which gives the stories a compelling, dry-eyed poignancy, a melancholy but intensely moving authenticity" (William Boyd Daily Telegraph)

"This dazzling little collection is a treat" (Guardian)

"All the stories in this collection are superb. Each sucks the reader, with magical speed, into the hearts of the characters, while seeming to say almost nothing about them. And they are not always gloomy, these hearts" (Independent)

"A collection of stories it would be hard to forget" (Peter Kemp Sunday Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'Elephant is superb and suggests how much he still had to give' Ian McEwan --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By I Read, Therefore I Blog VINE VOICE on 7 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
These stories are all about characters facing a fact and making a change because of that fact - either their own mortality (Whoever Was Using This Bed), their failures as a husband and partner (Menudo) and their relationship with their mother (Boxes). They're all low-key and demand a second reading immediately as you finish them because there are so many nuances to Carver's characters and what they face that you find yourself picking up new layers on each subsequent reading.

My favourite story in the collection was Boxes - a story about a man dealing with is infuriating mother who has packed up to move to the other side of the country but still hasn't quite gotten around to doing it yet. It's a very sad story, in that you can feel the narrator's frustration at dealing with a mother who never listens to what he says but who he loves and feels obliged to nevertheless and the ending where she does leave and he realises that this is the last time that he will see her is particularly bittersweet.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
The last collection of stories by this much feted short-fiction writer, Elephant, is a triumph of understatement, replete with emotional resonance. The stories are not so much narratives as statements - `this is how life is lived'.

In the title story a man remembers his father carrying him on his shoulders and how he imagined his father was an elephant. This elegantly gentle metaphor carries over into his own life as he struggles to help his family, all of whom need financial assistance. He, in turn, has become the elephant carrying his ex-wife, his mother, his daughter, his son and his brother on his shoulders. Gentleness pervades many of these stories, a woman intent on leaving her husband walks out of her house one foggy night to find horses gathered on her lawn; a man who is separating from his wife rakes his lawn and that of his next-door neighbours, as if cleaning up his past ready for a new life. In a departure from his usual modern settings Carver writes of Chekhov's death from tuberculosis in the midddle of a heat wave.

Each of his stories is a delicate view of the breakdowns and failures of relationships, but leavened always by insight, vision and sometimes by the freight and motion, the joyful complexity, of being alive.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Feb. 2000
Format: Paperback
The short stories in 'Elephant' are simply written without a hint of pretension and examine ordinary people facing everyday problems in small town America. The stories have no beginning nor an end and are merely a snapshot into people's lives. These snapshots are beautifully written, though sometimes it is necessary to read between the lines to absorb their full impact.
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