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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

4.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  26,762 Ratings  ·  1,522 Reviews
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 lit ...more
Paperback, 159 pages
Published March 1982 by VIntage Books (first published 1981)
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Jul 14, 2009 KFed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll announce the cliche of my loving this book before you beat me to it.

I'm an overeducated, mock-contemplative early-twenty-something with a penchant for strong male voices (despite my feminist leanings) and a distaste for anything too sentimental. I was raised in the tradition of "Show, Don't Tell" and hold this closer than even my favorite teddy (whose name is Atticus.) My middle name is "Minimalism." My other middle name is "Ooh, that sounds pretty."

With that out of the way, yes, of course

Milan Kundera in his short story collection Laughable Loves, talks about the inevitable absurdity that revolves around the highly misunderstood feeling of Love that begins with innocent stargazing but later tempt numerous meteors to destroy the vulnerable abode of lovers. Promises are ditched, mushy definitions are torn apart and even when other things remain equal or unequal; he/she still loves me just doesn’t matter anymore. What remains is this filthy carcass of emotions that some people tag
Jason Koivu
Jan 15, 2015 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A collection of slice-of-life short stories that mostly go nowhere and end ambiguously, and for some damn reason I loved them.

Carver gets mileage out of yard sales, photographers offering their services, accidental death, a night of bingo, doing things and doing nothing, talking yet saying nothing.

As a reader, I was frustrated when some of the stories went nowhere. I expected and hoped for big conclusions, finality, and instead I got dudes driving away from confrontations holding ashtrays. But
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
"Booze takes a lot of time and effort if you’re going to do a good job with it."

Indeed. If one wanted to distill the stories within this collection down to a pithy, inverted, Hallmark-style aphorism, this would be a top contender.

(Click For Review Soundtrack: "Little Person")

Drinking and smoking and talking: these are the true main characters of Carver’s world (and make no mistake: he’s summoned and crafted a distinctive world). Okay, we can quibble and refer to this trifecta more aptly as the t
Paquita Maria Sanchez
This is like what would happen if Walker Evans had built a time machine, gunned it to he 1970's, landed in the field of some pop. 1000 Oregon hunting town, plopped down at a bar stool, and started writing field notes for photos of the place and the folks contained therein. He isn't actually going to shoot the images this time, though. Fill in the lines with your own muck.

Sparse, s(p)earing, simple stuff. Even if you don't generally go for a minimalist approach, Carver has this un-thumb-downable
Dec 13, 2009 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My fucking head hurts. I should be writing my thesis, but the math part of crunching the data is hurting my head. It shouldn't though. It should be easy math. I'm dumber than I used to be. Instead I'll procrastinate, and share a review I wrote 6 years ago for another website that I haven't written a single thing on in just about 6 years. All date references should have six years added to them.

After reading MFSO's review I wanted to make some comment about a line that I really like in the first
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

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 com
Jun 09, 2015 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I picked up this collection of Raymond Carver stories after watching the movie "Birdman," which features a play based on the title story.

When I finished reading it, I was both impressed at Carver's brisk dialogue and wishing there had been more. He sketches scenes well, dances around a topic, reaches for an emotional peak, and then closes.

Like most short stories, it's a marvel of efficiency. But I still wish there had been more heft.
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 19, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
Shelves: 501, anthology
Dirty Realism is the genre where this book is classified. Coined in the 80's, the dirty-realism school of writing became popular during that decade due to the writings of Raymond Carver, Angela Carter, Bobbie Ann Mason, Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff among others. Their language is sparse and their characters are the blue-collar, middle-class Americans who faced disappointments, heartbreaks and harsh truths in their ordinary lives.

I have been reading a biography of Haruki Murakami and read last week
Andrew Smith
Mar 21, 2015 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first became interested in this book when I read Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Any book that can inspire Murakami to steal (most of) the line must be worth reading. Mustn’t it? Well I thought so, though it took me some time to get around to this collection of 17 short stories. The cover of the Vintage Classics version I read is sparse and the blurb gave nothing away. Ah well, in for a penny…

Originally published in 1981, the prose is lean and the general
Jan 26, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who wondered what Hemingway was like on dry land
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: seen it around - the title got me curious
Shelves: read-in-2011
In friendship
In affection
In love
In lust
In perpetuity
In memoriam

Is this what we talk about when we talk about love? Carver's stories are short, pared down love stories, stripped of everything but the necessary words and the skeletal, frequently all too human frame upon which to hang them. Some of his work doesn't seem like a love story at all, think Hemingway, if he left out the toros, marlin fishing and drinking. Carver is a landlocked Hemingway in fact. You might be left wondering, where is th
May 16, 2013 Tina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tina by: Angus
I attended the wedding of my brother's best friend last week. I like weddings. It may be something that runs in the family since my brother is a wedding videographer. But I really, really like attending weddings, because it's such a happy, happy day. Plus, I really like hearing wedding vows.

Anyway, my wedding weekend read was Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love , which I borrowed from Angus when I got the chance to check out his bookshelf. This is my first Carver, and th
Stylistically incredible if relentlessly depressing short stories. I read this because Haruki Murakami counts Carver as an influence, and I can see that: they share a certain spare clarity of prose, and an occasional touch of beautiful oddness (though Murakami takes the latter much farther than Carver does). But while Murakami is often quite funny, Carver is just bleak—read too many of these stories in a row and you’ll want to throw yourself off the roof. Read in sequence like that, they also st ...more
Oct 23, 2014 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014

What do any of us really know about love? It seems to me we're just beginners at love. We say we love each other and we do, I don't doubt it. I love Terri and Terri loves me, and you guys love each other too. You know the kind of love I'm talking about now. Physical love, that impulse that drives you to someone special, as well as love of the other person's being, his or her essence, as it were. Carnal love and, well, call it sentimental love, the day-to-day caring about the other person. But s
mai ahmd
Feb 02, 2016 mai ahmd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
تجربتي الأولى مع كارفر ، اقتنيت الكتاب عندما علمت أن موراكامي اقتبس عنوان كتابه (عن ماذا أتحدث عندما أتحدث عن الركض ) من عنوان كارفر وقيل لي أن موراكامي تأثر بهذا الكاتب وهذين سببين كافيين بالنسبة لي لأطلع على أعماله .. بدءا كان من الصعب فهم كارفر من أول قصتين حقيقة لم يكن الأمر سهلا لكن المضي في القراءة تجعلك قادرا على استيعاب طريقته في السرد ، إنه يكتب تفاصيل تبدو لك غير مهمة لكن مع النهاية تشعر بأهمية كل كلمة جاءت في النص ولم يكن أي سطر فيها زائدا عن الحاجة إن أعمال كارفر مدروسة بشكل يثير الد ...more
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
Apr 05, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting collection of short stories, the first I've read from Carver. The stories are quite captivating in a simplistic way. They often end before the full story has been fully told. I guess that may add to the intrigue, but it frustrated me reading a story that wasn't quite done,in my eyes. I look forward to reading more from him.
A collection of short stories first published in 1981, but feeling a couple of decades older. They are heavily edited versions of "Beginners" (

Each is a vivid glimpse of people at a troubling time in their lives. One of the early ones contains the line "Booze takes a lot of effort if you're going to do a good job with it" and one expects that to sum up the collection, but they're more varied than that. Most concern recent or imminent loss, whether a part
Feb 10, 2015 Priyanka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Carver’s short stories present spare glimpses of characters entrapped in a frazzled web of relationships and events whose significance they cannot understand. He generously uses symbolism to advance the story’s theme where a lot takes place between the lines. His symbolic guideposts are so reliable and meticulously crafted that they resolve ambiguity rather than creating it.

Carver’s slices of life ranges from surrealism in “Viewfinder” and “Why don’t you dance?”, to careful omissions in “Tell th
"I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark."

What do we talk about when we talk about love? This book is, contrary to its title, not very forthcoming on the subject. I’d say this is rather a collection of all the things we don’t talk about when we talk about love. You know, the loneliness, the miscommunication, the hurt, the regret. All the terrible things that lie in wait
Aug 31, 2012 Rayroy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Elsewhere” (or “What We Talk About When We Talk About Great Writing” )

You see the other day after work I was sort of deep in my head. Try as I might I couldn’t get this girl out my head. Also I couldn’t get the other girls that got away out of my head. A feeling of saddens and loneliness had moved in me, I was a fog of sorrow.

I tried to look on the up side of things; I was done with work, and was free. Free of running packages downtown from high-rises of glass and metal, high-rises of stone a
Jun 25, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A primeira coisa que me ocorre dizer sobre este tesouro:
Vocês que me lêem, se puderem leiam-no…
Entreguem-se-lhe e terão uma fabulosa experiência literária!

São pequeninos contos - episódios do quotidiano - que falam de amor, de todas as formas de amor – e muito da falta dele -, amor fraterno, amor amante, amor conjugal, amor perdido, amor reencontrado, amor amizade,…; e de desamor, muito desamor…
São pequenos relatos de amor, de desejo, de morte, de egoísmo,de crueldade e que nos deixam lassos, in
Few years ago I saw Jindabyne, movie based on Carver's story 'So Much Water So Close to Home' and I loved it. It left me numb and a bit disoriented. I started reading Carver more than five times during the last ten years, but I didn't find him any good. Of course, reading Carver is all connected with the right age and coming back to full circle. When you can understand segments of marginal psyche of people with whose life you can easily identify yourself with. Carver is not a smooth writer. I re ...more
Oct 04, 2010 JSou rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I was pleasantly surprised by this; I've never read any Carver before, but I'm glad I tried this one. My rating averages 4 stars (4.11 to be exact), but none of the stories went below a 3 for me, and there were quite a few fivers in there.

My favorites include:

The Bath
Tell the Women We're Going
After the Denim
The Third Thing that Killed My Father Off
A Serious Talk
Popular Mechanics

A Serious Talk was so frightfully real, it had me glancing out the windows with a sick feeling in my stomach. I was rea

Originally posted here.

When I opened the first pages of my copy of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, I was prepared to be inundated with fluff and fuzz and, well, love. Because when you see that word in the title of a book – love – you are justified in thinking that’s what you’ll get.

Well, in a sense, I did get love from the 17 stories that made up this collection. But only what remained of it. Yes, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is about the remnants of love.


With its spa
Dec 13, 2007 Lesley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: it's hard to say...
As I recall, reading this book is like chain smoking in a cinder block walled room (with a burn-marked reddish-orange carpet) and dropping your butts into a half empty beer can resting on a round chipped wood laminate table. Reading this book is like going to the movie-version of an NA meeting in a church basement. It's all gritty, full of one quarter hope and three quarters deep, devastating tragedy. That sounds totally awful, but really you just have to be in the right mood.
Sara Alaee
Jun 18, 2015 Sara Alaee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first became interested in reading this book when I read Haruki Murakami’s memoir “What I talk about when I talk about running”. (Murakami counts Raymond Carver as one of his big influences.) It was two or three years ago. Since then I’ve only read one other work from Carver which is this one: فاصله و داستانهای دیگر، بههمراهِ مقالاتی در شناختِ ریموند کاروِر.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love explores the nature of love and life through middle-class characters who faced disappointments,
Laura Caltea
Aug 03, 2015 Laura Caltea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scriitură foarte bună, genul de carte la care revii. Citisem/auzisem numai de bine de Carver și mi-a fost teamă să nu am așteptări prea mari și să mă dezamăgească, însă nu a fost cazul. Fiind proză scurtă, e greu să epuizezi cartea la o singură citire. Cred că o să revin la ea, de-a lungul timpului, dar pe bucăți. O proză foarte sensibilă și, în același timp, foarte „econoamă”, nu face risipă de cuvinte. Nu știu dacă e ok să-i compar, însă Alice Munro pare mic copil pe lângă Raymond Carver.
Oct 22, 2013 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He went to Costa late in the afternoon and read the book. He read it while people talked and moved about, like they had to. And that was something.

Each story in the book was strong and taut, was full of those sorts of sentences you read in a script, only the script wasn’t as spare. These stories had life. They were about people living in small towns, wondering, seeing each other like they were all statues falling from the heavens, that would have to break. They weren’t beautiful, these people.
Paul Bryant
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Carver was born into a poverty-stricken family at the tail-end of the Depression. The son of a violent alcoholic, he married at 19, started a series of menial jobs and his own career of 'full-time drinking as a serious pursuit'. A career that would eventually kill him. Constantly struggling to support his wife and family Carver enrolled in a writing programme under author John Gardner in 1958 and ...more
More about Raymond Carver...

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“There was a time when I thought I loved my first wife more than life itself. But now I hate her guts. I do. How do you explain that? What happened to that love? What happened to it, is what I'd like to know. I wish someone could tell me.” 114 likes
“Something’s died in me,” she goes. “It took a long time for it to do it, but it’s dead. You’ve killed something, just like you’d took an axe to it. Everything is dirt now.” 75 likes
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