The Meaning of Raymond Carver

BY MATTHEW HERBERT

I have only read six or seven stories by Raymond Carver. I picked up his first collection, Would You Please Be Quiet, Please?, last week. The plots are skeletal, the language barren and raw. If the stories have morals, they are buried too deeply in the subconscious of the deadened, bewildered characters to bring them into the clear light of day. A married couple housesits next door and finds, separately, they would rather spend time there than at home. An out-of-work man visits his wife waitressing at a diner and discovers she is grotesque because the regulars talk about her.

RaymondCarver
Raymond Carver (Image: historythings.com)

Carver’s stories made such a strong first impression, I want to write it down. I know myself, and I will eventually fit Carver’s mood, message and ideas into a matrix of of other writers’ output. I’m sure I will also discover new things about him. He will change.

So for now, before the shock wears off, this is what Carver means to me: Even in the land of the American Dream, it is possible for anyone to feel chronically unhappy, unsuccessful, and unmoored, and to believe instinctively that he is nonetheless part of the mainstream. Carver is the prophet of the American Dream’s diminishing returns.

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