Friday, October 28, 2011

On "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" by Raymond Carver *****

I haven't read this collection in years, but it still speaks to me. I think my favorite collection is still What We Talk about When We Talk about Love, but this one still stands out nicely. I remember loving the title story for one. On this read-through, it was still fairly powerful, the way that Carver adds up all the simple details until we get to that final moment in which there is a kind of recovery. But I wasn't as well moved by the opening of the story, which didn't seem to justify the particular conversation that creates all of the story's angst. In fact, many of the stories toward the end of the collection didn't speak to me as much.

But at the start of the collection, Carver is on fire, and it's several of these that are classics. In "Neighbors," a couple assigned to check next door while the neighbors are away begin to lead a kind of fantasy life in the other's home, suggesting some great lack in their own lives. In "They're Not Your Husband," a man works to make something of his wife (that is, make her look good to other men), in a way that is both creepy and somehow touching. In "What's in Alaska?" friends share weed and talk about imminent plans to move away from one another--like many of Carver's stories, nothing much seems to be happening, but we remain glued to the story somehow because he conveys a power in the most mundane of moments. In "Night School" a man living with his parents tries to pick up a couple of women but finds his child-like living arrangement to be too difficult to get past.

"Put Yourself in My Shoes" recounts another party, this one, one in which a couple confronts another about damage to a rental home. In "Jerry and Molly and Sam," Al decides to get rid of the family dog but finds it more difficult than he'd have ever expected, just like so many things in life. In "What Is It?" a couple desperate for cash settles on selling a car--and perhaps a wife in the process.

It's the sheer fact that there are so many great stories here that I have a hard time remembering all of them. Some, over the years have stuck with me, not as much because I once read them here but because I read them, separately, in some other anthology, when compared with other stories, they stood out like diamonds.

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