K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
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Jan 19, 11

bookshelves: anthology, 501
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
Read from January 17 to 19, 2011, read count: 1

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 that part saying that one of his influences is Raymond Carver. When I saw a copy of this book last Friday, I bought it right away. The reason: I like Murakami's style: the sparse, easy-to-understand narrative and, I must admit, the fantasy elements that he seems to be very fond of using.

My edition of this book is composed of 17 short eccentric yet thought-provoking stories. Very Murakami except that the fantasy elements (the talking animals, the roving television camera, etc) are totally absent. Carver's characters are all human beings but the mood is always bleak as if the his characters do not know how to laugh and see the good side of things. Don't get me wrong though; these stories will not dampen your mood. Rather, it will make you think of your own life as you see yourself (even if you are not an American), in those stories. They are short (the shortest is 3 pages) but told in minimalist manner totally devoid of excess words. Every word has a purpose and if you speed read, you will not get what the message is and you will have to go back and read again. In most of the stories, Carver did not care to put names to the characters so he just uses "woman", "man", "boy" or their pronoun equivalents. So, that could be confusing if you don't pay attention. I think the purpose of that is to make his readers see themselves in those characters.

The title story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981) is the 16th story in this compilation (I know that in other editions it is the first). I think it is properly placed there because it is the most beautiful among the 17. Also the last story One More Thing seems to be like an afterthought of the title story so the book has that cohesive message: that Love is too hard to understand. Its meaning is elusive to most of us. Even if we keep talking about Love, we don't really know what it is really.

And yes, it is obvious that Murakami even got his inspiration from Carver's title when he came up with his non-fiction book: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Talk about originality.
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Reading Progress

01/17/2011 page 35
18.0% "Minimalist yet well-told short stories. Enjoying it so far (although I have to slow down to understand the message)"

Comments (showing 1-23 of 23) (23 new)

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message 1: by Emir Never (new)

Emir Never "Love is too hard to understand. Its meaning is elusive to most of us. Even if we keep talking about Love, we don't really know what it is really."

Then love is like a book, or some of them. Or some books are like love. ;)


K.D. Absolutely Ha ha. Good one! Thanks for the like, Emir.


message 3: by Emir Never (new)

Emir Never I'm serious. Auto-da-fe is awesome l-o-v-e! And I haven't gotten past the good chunk of it. And how lovely Kafka is. Kundera, too, could be so loving sometimes.


K.D. Absolutely Well, good for you. I gave "Auto-da-Fe" 3 stars only. This Carver book is definitely a 5-star for me! I have to pick my 2nd Kundera soon. I miss his writing ha ha.


message 5: by Teresa (new)

Teresa K.D. wrote: "I have to pick my 2nd Kundera soon. I miss his writing ha ha."

Which Kundera have you read, K.D.?


K.D. Absolutely The Unbearable Lightness of Being, T. I read it last year (Feb) so I will pick up my 2nd Kundera soon! Any recommendation. I have 3-4 books by him in my tbr.


message 7: by Teresa (new)

Teresa K.D. wrote: "The Unbearable Lightness of Being, T. I read it last year (Feb) so I will pick up my 2nd Kundera soon! Any recommendation. I have 3-4 books by him in my tbr."

That's my favorite by him! I've read it at least twice, maybe 3 times. I've read a few others by him, but none that I've liked as much. But of the others I've read, I guess I'd have to go with "Immortality." "The Joke" was also pretty good.


K.D. Absolutely Thanks, T.


message 9: by Emir Never (new)

Emir Never K.D., I agree with Teresa: Immortality is excellent, and perhaps it exemplifies the progression of Kundera's treatment of the novel form. I also found The Book of Laughter and Forgetting very good.


message 10: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely I will probably read "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" next. Most probably next month. I do not have "Immortality" but I have "The Joke"! Thanks for the tips, T and Emir!


message 11: by Theresa (new) - added it

Theresa May Dear KD - I read Murakami biography and picked up Carver for the same reason... it was like being unable to stop pressing a bruise- so painfully familiar and therefore dear.


message 12: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely I'm glad to know that I was not the only one :) Thanks, Theresa.


message 13: by Wynclef (new) - added it

Wynclef Ser K.D., san mo po 'to nabili? :)


message 14: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Sa Powerbooks Trinoma ko ito nabili. Pero two weeks ago nakakita ako ng copy sa Booksale SM Mega. I'm sure wala na yon.


message 15: by Leo (new)

Leo Robertson Great review, thanks for the list of other minimalist writers- lots to get on with! :-)


message 16: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Thanks, Leo.


message 17: by Killer Rabbit (new)

Killer Rabbit Thanks for the review, K.D. I had not heard of Dirty Realism. The genre sounds rather depressing, but if it can inspire Murakami, then it clearly has merit.


message 18: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Killer wrote: "Thanks for the review, K.D. I had not heard of Dirty Realism. The genre sounds rather depressing, but if it can inspire Murakami, then it clearly has merit."

I think each book that gave way to a new sub-genre should be read. However absurd the name of the sub-genre is. :)


message 19: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Williams Marukami was Ray's translator into Japanese. He credits him as an influence, as does the Norwegian writer Per Persson.


message 20: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Williams Petterson, sorry.

I wouldn't attach any importance to the label 'dirty realism'. Like all the other labels before it ('Lost Generation', 'Beat Generation', etc.) it owes more to the realm of advertising than that of serious critical thought.


message 21: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Ryan wrote: "Petterson, sorry.

I wouldn't attach any importance to the label 'dirty realism'. Like all the other labels before it ('Lost Generation', 'Beat Generation', etc.) it owes more to the realm of ad..."


Oh, I did not know that there has to be serious critical thought on this. Sorry.


message 22: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Williams I dislike glibness and labels, especially when critics use them as a substitute for thought.


message 23: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Ryan wrote: "I dislike glibness and labels, especially when critics use them as a substitute for thought."

My thinking is that every label, say magic realism for G. G. Marquez, also started that way. But it gained ground. Now that label is synonymous to his name.


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