Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” as Want to Read:
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  20,594 ratings  ·  1,042 reviews
In his second collection of stories, as in his first, Carver's characters are peripheral people--people without education, insight or prospects, people too unimaginative to even give up. Carver celebrates these men and women.
Paperback, 164 pages
Published June 18th 1989 by Vintage (first published 1981)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Nine Stories by J.D. SalingerThe Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan PoeA Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'ConnorDubliners by James JoyceThe Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Collections of Short Stories
8th out of 1,662 books — 1,322 voters
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardWatchmen by Alan MooreBeloved by Toni Morrison
Best Books of the Decade: 1980's
73rd out of 983 books — 1,041 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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...more
May 07, 2014 Louisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
“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.”

This was my first journey into a Raymond Carver book and I loved every moment of it. His writing style is one of simplistic elegance and is able to capture the feelings, the subtle gestures of these sad characters that end up living an unfulfilled and miserable...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 19, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
Shelves: anthology, 501
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...more
Jan 26, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
May 16, 2013 Tina rated it 5 of 5 stars
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 the...more
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
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...more
“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...more
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...more
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

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...more
Dec 13, 2007 Lesley rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
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...more
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....more
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...more
The opening story in this collection really threw me. I thought I had garnered a better grasp on sparse prose, the understated, the unstated, from recent reading material, but that first story really just baffled me. I had no idea what to think of it. Proceeding along, there were stories that certainly struck a chord in me, for example the one about a father slash ex-husband visiting his ex-wife and kids on Christmas, and the tensions there, while other stories left me wanting more of an explana...more
Having finished What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, I can understand why Carver smoked and drank himself to death. Reading the collection felt like a walk on the darker side of human nature. Please don't misunderstand, I think the man was responsible for making the story story a credible literary genre but he was tragically troubled.

I approached this book knowing that Carver is widely known for writing candidly about the blue-collar experience in his trademark minimalist (and often autob...more
Maria Ella
“All this, all of this love we're talking about, it would just be a memory. Maybe not even a memory. Am I wrong? Am I way off base?”

In the first read of the book, I made it part of the 2013-reading challenge and a Valentine read. Curious of the genre called dirty realism, it gave me a hangover by having the collection of stories ending abruptly - or not even ending, at all. It's just there - stuck in you. Later did I know (view spoiler)...more
From The Page Walker

Love Can Turn You Nuts

What do we really know about love exactly? None. Each of our definitions will remain debatable… significant, but still debatable. If love is truly absolute –cannot be diminished in any way and non-relative- then all arguments are null and heartbreaks are non-existent.
“…it ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.”

Raymond Carver happened to write a collection of short stories imitating hars...more
M.L. Rudolph
1974. Simple powerful tales that magically come alive in your hands.

Carver slips inside his characters with such skill and grace that you don't read so much as eavesdrop.

These stories are of intense moments for troubled people. Or they are the stories troubled people tell others to pretend their lives are in balance when they aren't.

The spare yet elegant writing projects lives at the near-boil, poised or paralysed for choice.

The stories in Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love are sketches—snapshots of small, bleak human moments. Moments we all know, that continue to play out in small towns we are all too familiar with, written in sparse, beautifully elegant prose. An extraordinary collection. I look forward to reading more of Carver’s work.
Feb 21, 2014 Lynai rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: ebook
Also posted in It's A Wonderful Bookworld.

It was not love at first sight between me and Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love . On my part, at least.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is the book club’s book of the month to celebrate the love month. It is a collection of 17 short stories and my very first foray into dirty realism. Dirty realism is a genre in literature defined by Wikipedia as “the fiction of a new generation of American authors. They write about th...more
Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is a masterpiece of short stories. The stories though sparse in length makes one reevaluate how he/she views life experiences of others. Carver takes what seem as inconsequential life experiences and weaves them into power packed encounters.
(The Third Thing That Killed My Father)exolores the relationship between a mute man and his friend which is revealed for what it is when the mute dies in a flood. (The Bath) is the story of a husban...more
It hardly needs saying from me that Carver is a magnificent writer. So consider it said.

It's been a long time, on a more personal note, since I've started and finished a book in (virtually) one sitting -- I guess it means that I've gotten better as a reader -- since I started rereading fiction about a year or 18 months ago, at any rate... and with no small help from my many GR friends. I've also started to learn how to read short-story collections...

Anyway -- it's a priviledge being able to rea...more
Hopelessly desperate and deceptively simple. Great for a literary detox after Austen.
Rowland Bismark
And the terrible thing, the terrible thing is, but the good thing too, the saving grace, you might say, is that if something happened to one of us tomorrow, I think . . . the other person, would grieve for a while, you know, but then the surviving party would go out and love again, have someone else soon enough.”

Mel makes this comment roughly halfway through the story, after he has told everyone that he’ll explain to them what love really is.

Carver is known for his minimalist approach to prose...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Rock Springs
  • The Stories of John Cheever
  • The Collected Stories
  • The Night in Question
  • The Collected Stories
  • Selected Stories
  • The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake
  • Self-Help
  • Forty Stories (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
  • Jesus' Son
  • The Pugilist at Rest
  • Honored Guest
  • Airships
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories
  • Enormous Changes at the Last Minute
  • The Coast of Chicago: Stories
  • The Progress of Love
  • Big World
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...
Cathedral Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? Short Cuts: Selected Stories Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories

Share This Book

“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.” 62 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.” 31 likes
More quotes…