Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Esquire says their list of 75 Books Every Man Should Read is unranked but when I checked Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" was #1.  Jesus, did they read the collection?  It's not about sexy sex, it's about people who live so close to the edge they can go over the cliff at any time.  It's about people who are so violent, or drunk or depressed that they can't have a normal relationship.  And then there is the violence against women.

I'm not saying that this collection is not a classic.  It is.  You can see its influence in the work of other short story writers (I'm thinking of "Drown" by Junot Diaz) but if you tell me that you are copying down lines from this or taking any life lessons or dating instructions from this book I might get away from you pretty quick.  If you say you are using it as a cautionary tale, I would agree.  The cover on my copy is dead-on.  Cigarettes in a bed in lingerie.  Yeah, that's seedy people!

Marakumi translates Carver into Japanese so that's why his running collection was "What We Talk about When We Talk about Running".  I can see the influence in his work.  Short sentences.  No fluff.  But complicated stories and many, many layers.  I know some people like to pick up and put down short story collections but this one you should read straight through like pulling off a bandage.  If you stop you may never start again.

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