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, December 23, 2011

"They're Not Your Husband" by Raymond Carver

"They're Not Your Husband"  by Raymond Carver (1981, 7 pages)

My Prior Posts on Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver (1938 to 1988, Oregon, USA) is on a lot of top ten short story writer of all times lists.   I have read and posted on five of his stories.    I recognize he has a tremendous talent and can do wonders with a small amount of material.   I was fully convinced of his brilliance when I read his story on the last day in the life of Anton Chekhov, "Nobody Said Anything".   (By a cosmic coincidence it was Carver's last story.)   

I am put off a bit by the people in Carver's stories.   I know it is not a good reading habit to judge stories and novels on how the people in the stories relate to those in your world but I am a bit turned off by the prevalence of alcoholics, drug users, wife abusers and just seemingly brutally ignorant people in his stories.   If this shows a lack of artistic detachment on my part or a lack of sympathy for the people in most of his stories, then so be it.   It does not mean I do not appreciate his genius and I will keep reading his stories.

"They're Not Your Husband" will make a lot of people cringe at the brutal seemingly valueless lives depicted in the story.   The husband in the story has to be a nightmare figure for every married woman concerned her charms have faded.   

The wife works as a waitress in a diner.   Basically that means a restaurant with a counter, a simple place.   The husband is sitting at the counter, hoping to get a free meal.   Two men come in and scrutinize his wife from behind as she bends over.   Not knowing who the man is, they make a number of really rude remarks about her body, concluding with a suggestion that they guess she can still attract men because "some like them fat".   The husband is really upset by this.   When he and the wife are going to bed, he basically tells her she needs to lose some weight and tells her to stand naked in front of the mirror. OK it takes either an idiot or a total uncaring brute to say something like this to his wife, perhaps particularly when she is the only one working in the family.   He goads her onto a  diet and when she begins to lose weight but looks haggard and feels week her co-workers express concern over her health.   She tells her husband and he says to her "They're Not Your Husband".

After she has lost nine pounds or so, the husband is back in the diner.   He is sitting next to a man he does not know and he tries to draw the man into a conversation about the body of his wife.   This is male bonding at its worse.   

This is a very well done story.   Carver is considered a minimalist (he would have been great on Twitter!).   He does do a whole lot in this story. 

It appeared in his collection of stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.   If you search for it, you can read it  online.   

Please share your experience with Carver with us.  

Mel u


@parridhlantern said...

this book is on my Amazon & Bookmooch wishlist, making this post of added interest for me, also I believe Haruki Murakami, took his title "What I talk about,when I talk about running" from this book

Anonymous said...

Wow, that doesnt sound like a very pleasant story to read. :-)

Carver is on my list of authors to explore further in the new year, though. This year I read the title story of your collection and also "Are These Actual Miles?" The latter didn't impress me too much, but "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" did.


Mel u said...

Parrish Lantern -I hope you enjoy some of his other stories

bibliophilica-yes it is a kind of hard to read story in that it depicts such a nasty man