Sympathetic Stupid

Monday, August 15, 2005

Raymond Carver: Where I'm Calling From

In most of these stories, little happens and there's no resolution. They hang on the characters. They're well-drawn, acutely imagined, ordinary Americans. And they're enduring a quiet hell. Mostly this involves a complicated disintegrating or destroyed relationship. The only goal is happiness, but it's never easy.

He finds the heart of life perfectly. The situations are perfectly imaginable and the inner feelings of the characters are even more so. Fever was my highlight, describing a man enduring the lonely, draining time after his wife has left him. (Yes, I see the likeness.) Feathers was a close second. This account of a routine meeting between two couples gets right at the improbable juggling act of a long-term relationship.

But all the stories are good, though I felt they improved towards the end. The last seven or eight, which were published for the first time in this volume, are consistently amazing. His prose is so spare, short sentences, few adjectives, no clever punctuation. And the tone matches that of the internal monologue. Truly a magnificent writer.

Aside: He's a very American writer. Amazon's 'Customers who viewed this book also viewed' section for this volume includes two CDs: Illinois by Surfjan Stevens and Funeral by The Arcade Fire. Very American music, despite AF being Canadian. Only missing Wilco and Bright Eyes, really.

Aside 2: Hot Tip: The Arcade Fire might be here for the Big Day Out. You heard it here first.