Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Will You Be Quiet, Please" by Raymond Carver (1967, reprinted in 100 Years of the Best of American Short Stories)

Raymond Carver (1938 to 1988) is considered one of the masters of the minimalist short stories, a genius at getting as much as you can out of as few words as possible.   I have only read a few of his short stories because of a limiting prejudice.  Much of his work seems devoted to stories about people who lead alcohol centered lives.  I do not find much sympathy with the problems brought on by this and maybe this is why I have not yet got into Carver extensively.   

"Will You Be Quiet, Please", published in the 1967 Best American Short Stories Anthology, is a brilliant portrait of a sad marriage, where a mistake made years ago ruined everything but the partners cannot really just walk away or forget what happened.  Alcohol is an important part of their coping mechanism.

About two years ago the wife had a one night relationship with an acquaintance of the husband.  When he came to realize what happened, the man hit his wife in the mouth, blooding her and knocking her to the ground.  Years go by and the husband cannot forgive or let it go.  (As a husband, I could not either.). He keeps quizzing his wife about why she cheated on him.  It seems she just got carried away in a moment.  After one very gut wringing quarrel he storms out of the house and ends up in a tavern.  He cannot help but think over and over on the infidelity of his wife, he cannot get the image of his wife having sex with another man out of his mind.

The story is divided into three sections.  In one interesting incident, he is hit in the mouth and robbed by a black man (then called a "negro") who knocks him down just as he did his wife.  

I admired the very real technical mastery of this story.  Carver truly made me feel the pain in this marriage but also the deep love from which a terrible hurt is born. One day I hope to read the full body of Carver's short stories.  They are just in fact being published as Kindle editions.  

Do you have any favorite Carver stories?

The story is included in the collection above.  I was given a copy of this very well done anthology. 

Mel u


Jonathan said...

I would find it difficult to pick out any single story by Carver as most of his stories are great to read but Elephant was particularly good.

Although Carver had drink problems I don't recall the characters in his stories being overwhelmed by it themselves.

Jonathan said...

I just realised that the story I was thinking of was Cathedral and not's been a while since I read them :-) - see the Wikipedia page on Cathedral.