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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love…

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981)

by Raymond Carver

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,929482,898 (4.17)64
  1. 40
    Beginners by Raymond Carver (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: "Beginners" is the version Carver submitted to his editor, Gordon Lish, under the author's title. Lish made significant cuts, changed character's names and removed dialogue to produce the version that made Carver's name: "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love".… (more)
  2. 10
    The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson (whitewavedarling)
    whitewavedarling: Similar styles and character types, though Jackson's stories are a bit more developed in regard to character and plot. Both authors have a tendency of working toward endings that leave a reader making final decisions instead of tying everything up fully with a more traditional ending.… (more)
  3. 00
    Lettipark: Erzählungen by Judith Hermann (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Jedes Wort zählt.
  4. 00
    Sleepwalk: and Other Stories by Adrian Tomine (bsbllbsbll)
    bsbllbsbll: Tomine captures Carver's immense talent for creating intense emotions in short spaces.

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This collection part of the 1980s Vintage Contemporaries series includes seventeen vintage Raymond Carver, including Viewfinder - An abandoned husband chucks stone as he is photographed up on his roof by a door-to-door salesman/photographer who had hooks instead of hands; A Serous Talk - An ex-husband expresses his rage when his ex-wife takes a telephone call in the bedroom by cutting the telephone line in the kitchen; One More Thing – A husband, wife and daughter accuse one another of being nuts. To share a larger helping of what a reader will find in the pages of this book of early Raymond Carver short-shorts, here’s a bit of detail on the title story alone with my sidebar comments:

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
Symposium: Two couples, Mel and Terri, Laura and the narrator, Nick by name, sit around Mel’s kitchen table one evening drinking gin when the topic of conversation turns to love. Sidebar: Echoes of Plato’s Symposium and, of course, the meaning of symposium is a drinking party. However this is 20th century Carver county America, so the object of love remains always women for men and men for women – not even close to seeing the opposite sex as the first step on the ladder leading to a more generalized universal love of philosophic wisdom.

Dionysius, One: Terri lived with Ed before she lived with Mel. Terri tells how Ed loved her so much he tried to killer her, dragging her around the living room by her ankles, while repeating, “I love you, I love you, you bitch’. Thus, the four launch into a debate about Ed’s madness and passion being true love. Sidebar: Ed embodies the ancient Greeks myth of Dionysius, the frenzied, drunk intensity of unbridled passion gone wild.

Dionysius, Two: Mel relates how Ed would call him up on the phone to threaten his life and once actually tried to kill him. Mel had to buy a gun for protection (completely out of character, he admits – he’s a cardiologist, for God sake!) and he and Terri lived like fugitives. Terri, in turn, says how when she left him, Ed drank rat poison causing serious facial deformities. Sidebar: Raymond Carver noted how a little menace is good for the temperature, good for a short story. Very true, Ray! Since Mel and Terri were personally so threatened by Ed, the whole tone of the discussion on love takes a much more serious turn.

Dionysius, Three: Ed shot himself in the mouth but he didn’t die – he was taken to the hospital where at one point Mel actually saw him. “His head swelled up to twice the size of a normal head. I’d never seen anything like it, and I hope I never do again.” When Ed was in his hospital room dying with his much swollen head, Terri sat in the chair next to him, counter to Mel’s wishes, right up to Ed’s last breath. Sidebar: As these two women and two men drink their gin, Terri’s compassion for Ed is the sole example given in the story where love transcends physical attraction for any of them.

True Love: Laura comments how she and Nick know what true love is, as they touch knees and Nick makes a big production of kissing Laura’s hand. Terri tells them they are still on their honeymoon, even after being together for nearly two years, but just wait. As an afterthought, Terri tells them how she is just kidding about that "just wait." Sidebar: Like hell Terri is kidding; she knows from experience that at some point the honeymoon ends, but Laura and Nick are in honeymoon mode now, which is the pinnacle of love for each one of these four, thus her jealousy.

Probing Question: Mel waxes philosophical when he acknowledges how he loved his first wife very much but now he hates her guts. Same thing with Terri in her love for Ed, same thing for both Laura and Nick since they both were married previously. What happened to that love? And if anything tragic happened to any of them, their partner would find someone else to love. Sidebar: Good question. Why is such a powerful, all consuming emotion for one person alive within us for a time then it either dies or turns to an equally negative emotion? Even when it comes to something that doesn’t change, like music, the type of music we love changes over time. Why is this?

DOA: Mel relates a story of love that really impressed him, a story where a drunk teenage driver at high speed slammed into the car of a seventy-year-old husband and wife. The kid was DOA but the husband and wife were at his hospital in traction, bandaged head to foot, in the same hospital room and the husband tells him though a mouth-hole in his bandaged head that what really depresses him isn’t the accident or being injured or the pain but the fact that he can’t turn his head and see his wife through his eye-holes.

The White Knight and His Kids: Mel says how he wants to be like those medieval knights in their armor where nothing can hurt them. Then, tipsy with gin, Mel wants to speak with his kids. Terri cautions him that his Marjorie (Mel’s ex) might answer the phone. Mel becomes extremely angry and upset, tells everyone how Marjorie is bankrupting him, how she doesn’t marry her goddam boyfriend since she wants to still continue to collection money from him. Knowing Marjorie is allergic to bees, Mel swears he will show up at Marjorie’s front door wearing the white suit of a beekeeper and let loose a hive of bees to kill her. Sidebar: Echoes of Ed and the spirit of Dionysius as Mel is possessed with the mad desire for destruction and killing.

Silence: All four fall silent, sensing how Dionysius isn’t all that far away – it is only a matter of what can set us off. The story ends with Nick’s reflection: “I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”

Raymond Carver, master of the short story ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
A friend gave this book to me as a gift after we watched BIRDMAN in theaters a few years ago. I hadn't read anything by Raymond Carver before (and hadn't heard of him until I saw the movie), but my friend is a huge fan. This is the second time I've read through the book, and since I knew more of what to expect, I appreciated it more. The stories are often depressing, often dealing with screwed-up people with personal and familial problems. I can't say I can relate to these characters, but I imagine that there's a large subset of American society that can. Two of the stories - "Tell the Women We're Going" and "Popular Mechanics" - had such horrific endings, my hair stood up.

Mr. Carver's writing is deceptively simple, lacking complex vocabulary. If its themes and subtexts weren't so mature, I'd almost suggest that it be a candidate for a "high-low" book, meaning that its reading level is low but it's still appropriate for older readers.

5 stars. ( )
1 vote Sylvester_Olson | Jul 1, 2018 |
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love es una interesante recopilación de cuentos cortos escritos por Raymond Carver y publicado por primera vez en el 1981.

Tuve conocimiento de la obra gracias a una película que reseñé algunas semanas atrás, Stuck In Love, donde la mencionan de paso y extraen una memorable cita:

"I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark."

El nombre de la obra es el título de uno de los relatos que encierra las páginas del libro. Son 17 cuentos en total y cada uno presenta una perspectiva diferente de lo que es el amor.

Y no me entiendan mal, no es un libro "rosado"; es un libro bastante real, con los 'pies sobre la tierra', con personajes que pueden ser tus vecinos, tu familia o tú mismo.

Son muchísimos los temas que guarda dentro este conocido libro: Amor, odio, comunicación (o la falta de ella), celos, identidad, separación, lucha, crimen, conflicto, control, aceptación, separación, el 'dejar ir' y el 'seguir adelante', miedo, inseguridad, cambio, alcoholismo, enfermedad, conexión, duda, abandono, sufrimiento, pérdida, arrepentimiento, unión, violencia, opinión y creo que podría seguir.

"Gazebo", "Sacks", "Popular Mechanics", "Tell the Women We're Going", "A Serious Talk" y "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" fueron mis predilectas.
No soy un experto en alcohol, pero creo que What We Talk About When We Talk About Love es una obra que precisa consumirse de manera lenta y pausada, como un buen whiskey, como un buen vino.

Un punto negativo es que los cuentos parecen no tener inicio y/o fin. Me gustaría compararlo con 'darle a play' a una escena de una película que ya estaba empezada y 'darle a stop' seguido acabe la escena.
La mayoría de los cuentos se sienten así. Sin principio/Sin desenlace. Es algo que quizás cueste acostumbrarse al principio... Pero son 17 relatos, eventualmente uno se acostumbra.

El estilo de escribir de Raymond Carver es simple y a la vez exquisito, unos dirán que es minimalista y sí, sus relatos son muy cortos, pero dudo de ese sustantivo por la riqueza de detalles y lo fluido de sus diálogos, más tomando en cuenta lo conciso de sus cuentos.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love ha inspirado a bandas musicales (Old 97's, Deus), a autores (Haruki Murakami, Nathan Englander, Rob Bell) y de algunos relatos de este libro se han hecho cortometrajes.

Estamos en pleno 2014 y este libro se publicó en 1981... Con más de 30 años de diferencia, esta obra aún mantiene calidad.
Lo recomiendo. ( )
  JorgeLC | Apr 28, 2018 |
Breathtakingly good. I found it hard to keep reading at times because the emotional impact of the stories was so intense. Technically speaking Carver is truly a master of understatement and really, really tight writing. I mainly picked this up because Murakami lists him as an inspiration, and I can definitely see the influence on his style. So glad I read this! ( )
1 vote alchemie | Apr 2, 2018 |
  rosechimera | Mar 16, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Raymond Carverprimary authorall editionscalculated
Duranti, RiccardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frielinghaus, HelmutTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gustafsson, KerstinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mattila, RaijaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puławski, KrzysztofTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Udina, DolorsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika Goicoechea, JesúsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JesúsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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(From Why Don't You Dance?) In the kitchen, he poured another drink and looked at the bedroom suite in his front yard.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679723056, Paperback)

"What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" is not only the most well-known short story title of the latter part of the 20th century; it has come to stand for an entire aesthetic, the bare-bones prose style for which Raymond Carver became famous. Perhaps, it could be argued, too famous, at least for his fiction's own good. Like those of Hemingway or any other writer similarly loved, imitated, parodied, and reviled, these stories can sometimes produce the sense of reading pastiche. "A man without hands came to the door to sell me a photograph of my house." "That morning she pours Teacher's over my belly and licks it off. That afternoon she tries to jump out the window." "My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right." What other writer ever produced first sentences like these? They are like doors into Carverworld, where everyone speaks in simple declarative phrases, no one ever stops at one beer, and failure or violence are the true outcomes of the American dream.

Yet these stories bear careful re-reading, like any truly important and enduring work. For one thing, Carver is one of the few writers who can make desperation--cutting your ex-wife's telephone cord in the middle of a conversation, standing on your own roof chunking rocks while a man with no hands takes your picture--deeply funny. Then there is the sheer craft that went into their creation. Despite their seeming simplicity, his tales are as artfully constructed as poems--and like poems, the best of them can make your breath catch in your throat. In the title piece, for instance, after the gin has been drunk, after the stories have been told, after the tensions in the room have come to the surface and subsided again, there comes a moment of strange lightness and peace: "I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark."

Much of what happens in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981) happens offstage, and we're left with tragedy's props: booze, instant coffee, furniture from a failed marriage, cigarettes smoked in the middle of the night. This is not merely a matter of technique. Carver leaves out a great deal, but that's only a measure of his characters' vulnerability, the nerve endings his stories lay bare. To say anything more, one feels, would simply hurt too much. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:15 -0400)

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Stories feature men and women without education, insight, or prospects, who, ironically, are too unimaginative to ever give up.

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