4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Nancy
This powerful collection of stories, set in the Northwest among the lonely men and women who drink, fish and play cards to ease the passing of time, was the first by Raymond Carver to be published in the UK. With its spare, colloquial narration and razor-sharp sense of how people really communicate, the collection went on to become one of the most influential pieces of literary fiction.
When I started reading, I found these stories a little too spare, a little unfinished. They were snippets of lonely people and troubled relationships, but nothing I could really sink my teeth into. I set the book aside and when I picked it up a second time, I discovered that these stories are better digested when read with fewer interruptions. Although these stories are about a variety of characters, I found their commonalities, differences, views and struggles very compelling, if not always enjoyable. Reading the stories consecutively helped to draw me in and connect me with the characters. The words, though brief and simple, were astonishingly effective at portraying the human condition with grittiness, humor, and poignancy and showing a glimpse of American society.
Here are a few memorable lines from some of my favorite stories:
"There was a little rectangle of lawn, the driveway, the carport, front steps, bay window, and the window I’d been watching from in the kitchen. So why would I want a photograph of this tragedy?” – from Viewfinder
"Things are better now. But back in those days, when my mother was putting out, I was out of work. My kids were crazy, and my wife was crazy. She was putting out too. The guy that was getting it was an unemployed aerospace engineer she’d met at AA. He was also crazy." – from Mr. Coffee and Mr. Fixit
"The thing was, they had to have a serious talk soon. There were things that needed talking about, important things that had to be discussed. They’d talk again. Maybe after the holidays were over and things got back to normal. He’d tell her the goddamn ashtray was a goddamn dish, for example." – from A Serious Talk
"But what I liked about knights, besides their ladies, was that they had that suit of armor, you know, and they couldn’t get hurt very easy. No cars in those days, you know? No drunk teenagers to tear into your ass." – from What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
Fix a drink, have a smoke, and discover Raymond Carver.