Cecily'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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Oct 27, 13

bookshelves: american-canadian, short-stories
Read from February 09 to 18, 2010

A collection of short stories first published in 1981, but feeling a couple of decades older. They are heavily edited versions of "Beginners" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...).

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 partner, child, friend or home. Often matters are exacerbated by problems with drink and fidelity. There are few really likeable characters; more references to fishing than might be expected; misogynistic aspects and not much humour, yet they were fascinating to read.

A few stories are positively disturbing (e.g. a brutal and pointless murder), but there are insights and questions too. Where does love go when it dies? How do you come to terms with the violation of the sanctity of your home? Can there be love if there is also violence? How does a functional family fall apart? Some of the characters are keen to explore these matters overtly ("There was more to it, and she was trying to get it talked out" and "We'd reached the end of something, and the thing was to find out where new to start"), but others are victims of circumstance or just go, unthinkingly, with the flow.

They are very short, but I'm sure I've seen adaptations of The Bath (starting with a boy's birthday cake) and Tell the Women (the grisly one), though I can't track them down; perhaps it's just Carver's storytelling skill that makes me think that.

Overall, I'd rate them 3.5*, but I'm feeling generous, and Carver is revered, so I rounded up.
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