Friday, 17 June 2011

Short and Bittersweet

Will you please be quiet, please? is Raymond Carver’s first short story collection, published in 1976. He writes of regular, everyday Americans in their ordinary lives. The characters are often unemployed, depressed, in unfulfilling relationships. They are stories of intimate connections - father/son, husband/wife – and the closeness that strangers can reveal.

Carver’s gift is that in a few short pages he can bring the reader fully into the moments of these characters’ lives. He also writes about the mundane but makes it compelling, making the ordinary extraordinary.

“They’re not your husband” is about a man who criticises his wife and forces her to diet so that other men will admire her.

A nosy postman who observes a couple that move into a house on his route in “What do you do in San Francisco?”. Although he only sees them on his mail delivery runs, the postman thinks he knows what is best for the couple.

“Are you a doctor?” is about a man who answers the phone one night to a woman who called him by mistake. He agrees to meet her despite his sense that he really should hang up the phone.

While “Collectors” features a door-to-door vacuum salesman who goes through his sales routine even though he knows the unemployed man he is pitching to will not buy one.

I have huge admiration for Carver and his ability to craft such tightly knit tales which allow the reader to imagine what is not written. However, this early collection of Carver stories is not my favourite of his works and while there were some stories of interest, others I found rather dull. I much prefer her later works Cathedral (1983) and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981).