Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Little Things" by Raymond Carver-

"Little Things" by Raymond Carver" (5 pages, 1988)

I have seen Raymond Carver's name on several best American 20th century short story writers type lists over the last few months.       A bit of quick pre-read research on Carver (1938 to 1988-Oregon, USA) seems to put him squarely in the hard drinking, scramble about life style of American writers such as Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway.    He had a variety of jobs from night janitor at a hospital to instructor at the super prestigious Iowa Writer's Workshop.    Wikipedia has a good article on him.

I have been in a sampling new to me writers mode this month so I thought I would read a story by Carver, if I could find one online.   His work is still protected by American copyright law but I was able to find one story online.   (As I have  said before, there are no public libraries here in Manila and I do not wish to buy collections of new to me short story writers so my samples of new authors tend to be limited).

"Little Things"  (first published in Popular Mechanics Magazine in 1977) gives us a look at a very nasty fight at what seems to be the break up of a couple that has had a baby together.    These opening lines of the story will give you an idea of his prose style.

Early that day the weather turned and the snow was melting into dirty water. Streaks of it ran down from the little shoulder-high window that faced the backyard. Cars slushed by on the street outside, where it was getting dark. But it was getting dark on the inside too.
He was in the bedroom pushing clothes into a suitcase when she came to the door.
I'm glad you're leaving! I'm glad you're leaving! she said. Do you hear?

As the story goes on each one has one of the baby's arms and they are pulling on him in an effort to claim ownership.   Hum-what to say here....?    Is "Little Things" a marvelous example of literary minimalism or is it a "shock story" designed to take participants in college workshops on creative writing and readers of the Paris Review outside of their personal comfort zone?    Is Carver an American enfant terrible?  

I am glad I have now read one of Carver's stories.     I would read one or two more of his works to get a better feel for him.     Over all, I  would say I would not buy a collection of his stories (for sure not at full retail!).

 I could not help but imagine Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen trying to decide if this story is meant to be taken seriously or if it is an odd joke of some kind.  

Please let me know what you think of Carver-

The story can be read online.      I am glad I got to sample one of Carver's short stories.  

Mel u


Rebecca Chapman said...

Sounds fascinating. I haven't read Carver so I can't offer an opinion of him. I do, however, have a book called Cathedral sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. Once I have read it I will be able to offer some more insight. Otherwise this story sounds very... thought provoking

Suko said...

Thanks for the link! This was my first Raymond Carver story, too. I'm not sure what I think about the writing or content.

Mel u said...

Suko-as I read the story I admit I confused-lots of people do have him on the best short story writers of all time list but based on this small sample I am at a loss as to why-but I cant say more until -or if-I read more of his work-

Becky (page turners)-thanks as always for your comments-I would like to read his best two or three stories

Short Story Slore said...

I have heard a lot of positive things about Carver, so I'm trying not to judge based on just this piece. The whole pulling a baby really bothered me. He's on my list to read more of this year so I'll have a better opinion later. Thanks for posting this!

Mel u said...

Short Story Store-I need and want to read more of his work also-this was the only story I could find online-based on this story alone I see no greatness in his work-I would like to read his best stories but not enough to buy a collection!

Anonymous said...

Raymond Carver seems to pop up on my radar very often these days. Or was it Raymond Chandler? I have trouble with reading Jack Kerouac,wonder why? I'll give Kerouac another shot one day.


Anonymous said...

I like Carver! I read only one of his collections, Elephant, and really enjoyed it; however, I wouldn't be able to explain why... I have had a craving for reading more of his stories for the past two months, so I think I will soon get another collection and will make sure I post a review.

markos said...

Carver's writing style is awesome. You can tell a lot from the opening lines of the story. "Fat" and "The Cathedral" are among his stories I would recommend.

Mel u said...

Markos-thanks for your visit and first comment on my blog-I really like his story about the last day of Chekhov