on 15 October 1999
I started reading Carver having seen Altman's film Short Cuts, and mainly because of its very funny portrayal of ordinary white working class American lives. How so different to this same world as portrayed by Carver himself. I have never read such sparse and quiet a narrative often so absent of events but which speak so directly to you and with such caring insight into people and their problems. The events and problems are often not those which can be translated or put into words for the benefit of a non-reader - Carver weaves impressions and lingering emotions which relate the lives of his folk rather than spreading out bare their lives before you, although paradoxically this is in fact exactly what he does achieve by standing back and allowing characters to tell their own story.
I find Carver the most original and intuitive voice - the craft of short story writing is much the poorer for his death.
on 27 May 2009
Anyone who knows anything, knows what Carver was (and is), what he can be, could be. This book is everything conveyed with next to nothing, it is more, so much more. If Carver were music he would be jazz.
Carver's genius lies in his powers of transportation. His ability to paint his subjects in the most transparent of washes, the faintest of brush-strokes and yet still manage to make you imagine them in their fullness and their complexity. Like the Chinese or Japanese masters of 'sumi-e' (ink painting), he lays down the simplest of lines, the simplest of narratives and the simplest language to convey to the viewer (the reader) just what was intended to be conveyed. There is no waste, no excess, no fat to be trimmed here, he stops short of giving too much and just shy of not giving you enough.
Carver arguably restored the relationship, the contract between the reader and an author. A contract whereby both parties agree to work for a common goal. The author agrees to give part of the story, if the reader agrees to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. And in agreeing to this contract, they agree to not just use their imagination in some passive, inert sense, but rather agree to draw on their store of experiences and knowledge to deepen one's assimilation to the characters and situations laid down on the page.
This short collection is memorable from start to finish and is highly recommended for anyone who likes great story-telling, who is interested in the human condition, or anyone who wants to encounter just what the short story can be.
on 21 April 2015
This is Carver's earliest collection, but his trademark sparse prose and the gritty kitchen sink setting of his stories are already indelibly stamped. In the first story "Fat", a waitress tells a seemingly pointless story about an extremely heavyset customer she served at the diner, but through her narration, the reader learns more about her and the quiet desperation she feels about her own life. And that is Carver-style, in the way he draws his reader's gaze on the seemingly innocuous, only to reveal the importance of the periphery.
In one of the more famous stories in this collection, "Neighbors", an unhappy couple find themselves slowly developing an obsession with a couple they envy across the hall, to the point they start to inhabit their home and their lives. A boy plays hooky to go fishing, and finds that while he can bring home the biggest catch, he finds he cannot confront the truth of his parents' failing marriage and his own intense loneliness in "Nobody Said Anything".
Elsewhere, the stories are full of men and women who talk but are not able to communicate, and when words prove meaningless, violence threatens to surface. Carver excels at painting working-class characters, who are living hand to mouth, and just making do, sometimes trying and failing, or on the brink of despair. The pain is never melodramatic, but quietly borne. The vacuum of their lives are filled with knick knacks and ordinary objects that litter their living spaces, holding their attention when staring their problems head-on proves too hard and distressing.
on 21 June 1999
...It is a conundrum that some of our greatest writers are so under-read if you like.
What you get with RAYMOND CARVER is a deep insight into human behaviour and emotion. His stories are often set around the mundane and frequently have no satisfactory resolution of the problems/situations that confront the main characters , but what a web this man spins. It is the sign of greaatness to do all of the above in such simple but effective language.
His style of writing is so different , that you may find like I did , that initially you are confused by the stories within this book. Persist. It took me about three stories until I skipped to THE STUDENT'S WIFE and then followed this by reading BICYCLES , MUSCLES, CIGARETTES .
They literally blew me away.
Buy this book and treasure the wisdom within I am not a re-reader of books but I found myself reading this again .
Rest in peace RAYMOND CARVER . You brought a devasting original voice into the short story form , and for that I salute you.
on 18 February 2015
Arrived quicker than expected securely packaged. The book was in excellent condition as described.
I'd never read any of Raymond Carver, so didn't know what to expect.
Has an unusual style of writing, focussing on setting the scene rather than the story content. A collection of short stories that mostly end leaving a 'what was that about' thought in your mind. I however enjoyed the writing style. Won't be everyone's choice though.
on 21 January 2014
In this collection of short stories, the author once again creates fiction out of everyday non-fiction, showing us that there is much more weight behind a gathering, a conversation, a movement than we initially believe, more to life than meets the eye. Each story peels back the curtain and allows us a view into what seem like everyday lives of everyday people, only to reveal the sensitive layers of those lives that we as outsiders only get to pontificate on from afar. The real truth is outed, the truth that in something as minuscule as a glance, there is a great story waiting to be told.
Read this work, devour all of Carver's short stories and marvel at a genius of his craft, for there are few as great at turning the seeming mundanity of life into several pages of pleasure, as Carver.
on 2 May 2013
Evokes the 70's era of small town America and the interactions of the population. Enjoyable & thought provoking with tenuous links or themes between each story.
on 9 March 2011
Raymond Carver was without a doubt one of the best short story writers of the 20th century, and this is one of his best collections. He had the knack of homing in on the smallest incident in a character's life that is somehow the most telling. He's also spare - writing close to the bone. Some of the stories are autobiographical as the recent, excellent, biography of Raymond Carver (Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life, by Carol Sklenicka) shows. 
on 1 June 2013
Just fabulous. Every story seems simple, every agony it describes matches the real world with unlikely grace and goodness! Hurrah! Read, enjoy and see your life laid out with compassion
on 15 December 2013
You won't have read shorts like this.completely absorbing and makes you think for yourself after he leads you so far and stops