Constant Reader
WebBoardOrientationReading ListsHome WorksActivities

Book Cover

Where I'm Calling From
by Raymond Carver
To: ALL Date: 01/04 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 1:27 PM THE NEXT BOOK Let's start discussing WHERE I'M CALLING FROM by Raymond Carver around the 15th of January. The February book will be DANDELION WINE by Bradbury and the March book will be AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD by Annie Dillard. Happy reading, Sherry =============== Reply 1 of Note 15 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/11 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 12:22 PM Since I nominated WHERE I'M CALLING FROM, I feel compelled to give everyone a little nudge here. I sort of immersed myself in this book, plus two others *about* him over Christmas vacation and I'm dying to talk to you all about these stories. And just to nudge your curiousity a bit, I wanted to share with you some of these quotes about his writing from an interview with Donald Justice (from a book called RAYMOND CARVER: AN ORAL BIOGRAPHY): *** Justice: He has great human sympathy, which I don't believe all writers have, and I am of the opinion all writers should have it. He has it automatically, just generously from the spirit. Those are the two aspects of his artistry in particular I admire, especially as they got together. Interviewer: Artistry. Could you elaborate? Justice: His stories are (pause) conscientiously and idiosyncratically put together. They have a form to them, and he has a style of his own too that is as far as I can tell without pretension. It also possesses all sorts of virtues that I appreciate. It is quite clear, direct, and fairly subtle. He seems to be concerned with the truth. All this may seem obvious, but it can't be said of most writers. The classical virtues exist in his best work. Justice: ...what I keep returning to now, and what I talk about to my classes--we always go over two or three of his stories every term, and always "Cathedral" because it epitomizes one of the things I really care about in writing--and that is the discovery of the mystery in the mundane. He could find the art in everyday occurences. I read somewhere that early Christianity had such appeal because it made mystery democratic. It wasn't filtered down through priests. You could have mystery in your everyday life. In an amazing way, Ray did that with his work, in that strange conjunction between accident and art. Interviewer: Did you recognize this from the start? Justice: Yes, especially in stories like "Are You a Doctor?" and "Put Yourself in My Shoes", those stories. I liked the Kafkaesque quality in those stories, the way accidents happen that can determine your fate...You have to read Ray's stories with the same intensity as you read poetry. *** Carver didn't choose "Are You a Doctor? for this collection, but "Put Yourself in My Shoes" is here. More on next note>>>>>>>>>>>>> =============== Reply 2 of Note 15 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/11 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 12:22 PM My initial reaction to this collection was that I liked the mid-career stories the best, particularly those from the CATHEDRAL collection, but they may have been because I was re-reading them. The Oral Biography book also interviewed a man named Leonard Michaels who taught at the University of California in Berkeley when Carver was there and published some of his early stories in a U of Cal literary magazine, The Occident. The following are some of the things he says about Carver's earlier and later stories: *** Interviewer: Did you publish it? Michaels: Yes. It was his early work and I liked it a lot. I liked his sense of humor and the way he managed to suppress a certain element of rationality, so the events in a story would move forward by virtue of a subconscious compulsion, as if there were no reality principal. This is too complicated and I don't like to talk this way. There was a craziness in his stories that pleased me. Interviewer: Do you find that note missing in his later work? Michaels: No, it's not missing. It's just that his work becomes deeper, almost as if he begins to feel what he feels, so the meaning of the stories is *in* the stories, whereas in the first book the meaning can wait. Do you see what I mean? The story has trajectory. The meaning can come along later. It's not involved in the experience of the story itself.... Interviewer: Are you saying his early work is more visceral? Purer? Michaels: It's more musical. To my ear. More terrifiying. Terrifying in the Kierkegaardian sense, like life itself. I don't know (laughs), forget that." **** At one point in the interview, Michaels makes reference to "Intimacy" as an example of Carver's later stories, so maybe he means the last few in WHERE I'M CALLING FROM and I don't think I like those as much as the others. I do find that, with re-reads and reflection, I like the early stories more and more. However, whatever you do, please don't miss "The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off", "Fever" "Feathers", "Cathedral" and "A Small Good Thing." I've been looking forward to the discussion of all these stories for a year! Barb =============== Reply 3 of Note 15 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 01/11 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:35 PM Barb and Sherry, Am I remembering correctly? Was Robert Altman's film, SHORT CUTS, based on Carver stories? I just finished the story about the mother who is trying to escape her son. We can discuss this later, but I loved the reason why she was afraid of him. Of course, I thought he was an axe murderer. Jane in sunny Colorado =============== Reply 4 of Note 15 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 01/12 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:40 AM Jane: Yes, the Altman film SHORT CUTS was based on Carver stories--some more loosely than others. I have a paperback called SHORT CUTS: Selected Stories by Raymond Carver that was published as a movie tie-in, with a very brief foreword by Altman about converting the stories into film. It's short enough that I can post it here, a little later. (Book's dated 1993; Carver died in 1988.) The cover art work features a Valentine heart, shattered like a pane of glass, with a very large housefly perched near the edge. Pretty apropos of Carver's mood, I think. >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 5 of Note 15 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 01/12 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:47 AM Jane: By the way, here are the stories Altman chose for SHORT CUTS... --Neighbors --They're Not Your Husband --Vitamins --Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? --So Much Water So Close to Home --A Small, Good Thing --Jerry and Molly and Sam --Collectors --Tell the Women We're Going --Lemonade (poem) My own favorite Carver story is "Why Don't You Dance?" No matter how many times I read it, it hits me like a ton of bricks. Not quite reality, not quite fantasy, not quite magical realism, but a very potent brew of something that touches our idealized notion of domesticity at its raw core. Myth? Icon? I haven't gotten my copy of WHERE I'M CALLING FROM yet so I don't know if it's in there, but if not I hope somebody will track the story down and help me out. >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 6 of Note 15 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 01/12 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 10:01 AM Barb, I was already formulating the opening note in my head (I've read the first half of the book so far) and I was going to say that the stories made magic out of ordinary life. The writing has a simplicity and directness that contrast to the feeling you get when you finish the story--a feeling of eeriness or shivers or something I can't quite put my finger on. Each story could have its own thread, there's such possibility for discussion. Sherry, gearing up =============== Reply 7 of Note 15 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 01/12 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:45 PM Dale, Thanks for posting about SHORT CUTS. I am so proud of myself for remembering that at my advanced age . As I wrote that "g", I was thinking that some of our younger members may think that my age is pretty advanced, but you young'uns who are close to my age will understand. Jane who will check Dale's list against the list of stories in our book =============== Reply 8 of Note 15 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/13 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 8:25 PM I love Sherry's description of Carver's writing. There's also a sort of right to the marrow honesty about it as well. Okay, now I'm worrying that I'm building him up too much and you'll all be disappointed, like the movies that I read too much about before I see them. I wanted to amend my comments about the last stories. I still had two to go when I wrote that and I loved them both. Do not miss "Errand". It is very different in subject matter from the others and involves Chekhov's death (and a cameo by Tolstoy). And, I also liked "Blackbird Pie" very much. I haven't ever seen SHORT CUTS. I'm not sure why. I guess I just couldn't imagine Carver translated to screen adequately. And, one other thing, for those who don't read short stories often...I try to not read them one right after the other, particularly if they are all by the same author. They lose their individual pearl-like quality if I do. You might want to try reading only two or three at a sitting. The danger with that approach is that you might not get through all of them, but, with Carver, I have a hard time limiting myself anyway. Barb =============== Reply 9 of Note 15 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 01/13 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 10:07 PM Barb - I agree with the interviewee in your earlier post, that Carver has "great human sympathy." He is often compared to Ann Beattie and her ilk, and I guess they do share a similar spare style, but I think it is this sympathy which sets him apart from many of the other minimalists. It just shines forth from his stories. I've probably read every single Carver story at least twice (not recently, though) - I very rarely re-read, so this is a strong reco for any of you who are undecided whether to tackle these stories. You will be glad you did. Theresa =============== Reply 10 of Note 15 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 01/14 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:29 AM Theresa: It always rankled me to hear Carver lumped with Beattie, et al, under the "minimalist" umbrella though I could never put into words what the difference was. I think Carver's innate, if beautifully understated, sympathy is exactly right. >>Dale in Ala. =============== Note 25 =================  
To: ALL Date: 01/15 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 11:21 AM WHERE I'M CALLING FROM by Raymond Carver I don't know where to start. I urge all of you to read every one of these stories. If anyone were to call me and say "I don't have time for them all, which ones should I read?" I would stutter and mumble and say, "Ah, gee, I don't know." The one story that was the most emotional for me was A SMALL, GOOD THING. I was glad it came at the end of a section, though. Because if you read this one first, I think the impact would not have been as great. I read them in order, since they were in the book sort of chronologically. I don't think that's necessary, but I'm glad I did. How are we going to do this? Pick one story apart, then go on to the next? Or should we have a different thread for different stories. That way would be rather cumbersome, but we could have several conversations at once. What do you say? Sherry =============== Reply 1 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/15 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 8:31 PM Sherry, I'm going to pick up my copy at the library tomorrow. Sounds like a winner. Ann =============== Reply 2 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/15 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:45 PM Sherry, I am about half way through the book. I am reading only two or three stories a day so that I can think about each one. To start, I think that it would be good to discuss some of the stories that come at the beginning, since not everyone is finished. Some of the stories in the middle seem to deal with marriages breaking up, so we could maybe talk about those all together. These are just a couple of ideas. In the first section, the first story that really grabbed me was "They're not your Husband". It is interesting and very sad that Earl should care so much about the opinions of other men. I can see why he would be upset with those first negative comments that he heard, but I was expecting him to ask his wife to get a longer or more roomy uniform so that it wouldn't ride up when she bent over. I would think that he would be angry with the men who made the rude remarks and not take it out on his wife. He was embarrassed by the comments at the beginning, but he certainly did a fine job of embarrassing himself at the end. Carver gave him his comeuppance. I did like the circular form of the story with the beginning and ending both being in the diner. Jane who would like to discuss the SAN FRAN. story as well =============== Reply 3 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/15 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 11:55 PM Sherry, my copy of the book should be in at the bookstore any day now. I'm so looking forward to reading it. I love short stories, as you know, and Raymond Carver is an acknowledged master that I've had far to little exposure to. Ruth, in rainy SC =============== Reply 4 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 01/16 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:47 AM Ruth, I really, really like these stories. I think you are in for a treat. Sherry =============== Reply 5 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/17 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 12:41 PM I'm going to try hard to stay away from too much biography of Carver until we've talked more about the stories. I tend to do that in excess and I wonder sometimes if it takes away from the writing itself. However, I recently listened to an interview with Carver on tape in which I became even more convinced that a bare bones awareness of his beginnings and his life add a good background to his writing. Carver was born in Oregon of *very* working class origins. His father worked in a sawmill. Carver and his first wife married when they were 19 and 17, respectively, and had two small children immediately. His family, etc. expected him to get a job in the sawmill and for his wife to stay home and take care of the kids. Nobody expected him to go to college. Instead, he and his wife both worked, went to college, tried to raise the children and he tried to write in addition to it all. His stories seem to reflect his beginnings, his domestic strife and the absolute at the edge existence that he lived to try to batter away at those goals. In the interview tape, he described he and his wife as "the working poor." He said, "I didn't know anything about upper class Boston society so I didn't write about it, but I did know about this." The first story in WHERE I'M CALLING FROM, "Nobody Said Anything" left me with a sense of it just hanging in the air when I finished. That happens with me in a lot of Carver's early writing. I'm not sure I "get it", but it resonates inside my head and I can't leave it mentally. Carver also chose this one to read in a tape I listened to of him reading three stories which makes me think that it is one that he likes. He said very little to explain it, just that he had once caught fish like these. One of the things that keep sticking with me about it is the portrayal of that adolescent boy. Carver picks up so many of the fine details that make up male adolescence (which I live with daily). That "in between" quality of yearning to be an adult, curiousity about all it entails and yet being so vulnerable to the conflict between your parents is right there. He goes out and wages his own war with nature, catches the fish of his life (though it's obviously flawed), makes his own foray into adulthood, but is greeted with total rejection by his parents who are oblivious to anything but their own war. Barb =============== Reply 6 of Note 25 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 01/18 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 3:22 PM Barbara - I like these stories because they do sort of force the reader to explain it to his/herself after reading each one. I liked your interpretation of the first one. Mine was that this boy escaped from the problems at home for awhile by getting all caught up in catching this great fish, but when he showed up at home with this defective, half fish the escape was over. Nothing had changed. And yes I thought it was a good portrayal of the boy. Barb Hill =============== Reply 7 of Note 25 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 01/19 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:51 PM Barb, What did Carver die of? I noticed that he was only 49 (Notice the ONLY) when he died. I finished FEVER today and noticed that the ages of the couple paralleled what you said about the age he was when he got married. Jane who had another relapse of bronchitis this weekend =============== Reply 8 of Note 25 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 01/20 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 7:35 PM Jane: Here's the capsule bio of Carver in CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS. *** CARVER, RAYMOND (1938-1988) Born May 25, 1938, in Clatskanie, OR; died of lung cancer, August 2, 1988, in Port Angeles, WA; son of Clevie Raymond (a laborer) and Ella Beatrice (maiden name, Casey; a homemaker) Carver; married Maryann Burk (a teacher) June 7, 1957 (divorced, October, 1983); married Tess Gallagher (a poet), June, 1988; children: Christine LaRae, Vance Lindsay. Education: Humboldt State College (now California State U., Humboldt), A.B., 1963; University of Iowa, MFA, 1966. Politics: Democrat. *** At first I was surprised that his heavy drinking wasn't a cause of his dying so young, but then I seem to recall a research study showing that smokers who drink heavily are far more prone to lung cancer than smokers who don't drink. Hope someone more medically knowledgeable (Anne?) will correct me if I'm wrong. >>Dale in Ala.; politics, Yellow Dog Democrat. Is that a regionalism, or has everybody heard the term? (I was also amazed to find that someone who died at roughly my own current age has *22* published volumes to his credit--true, several of them are chapbooks, but still... I'd be proud to have been *half* as productive by this point. BTW, my friend Dennis Covington studied under both Carver and John Cheever at Iowa, and says that Carver's hard-won battle for sobriety was the major inspiration for his own. I did a Homework Helper search today for Carver, and the references in books, magazines, radio & TV maxxed out several times at 150 hits. From a quick scanning of the best parts, most references were to the term "Carver country," which apparently has entered the language. And justly so.) =============== Reply 9 of Note 25 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 01/20 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:14 PM Dear Dale, Thanks for the biography. I noticed that Carver's characters seem prone to drinking, smoking, and in some cases, smoking dope. The story that I am currently reading is about a blind man who comes to visit a couple. They sit down after dinner and smoke some hashish. This surprised me for some reason. I really enjoyed the story "Feathers" yesterday. I loved the description of the ugly baby. "It was just ugly. It had a big red face, pop eyes, a broad forehead, and these big fat lips. It had no neck to speak of, and it had three or four chins. Its chins rolled right up under its ears, and its ears stuck out from its bald head. Fat hung over its wrists. Its arms and fingers were fat. Even calling it ugly does it credit." Now, that is an UGLY baby! In spite of all that, the baby kindled the mother instinct in Fran. What an interesting story! Dale, you mentioned that you were surprised at Carver's productivity. I would love to have any published work, and I know that all CR's admire your writing in your works and on the board. Jane, wondering what a Yellow Dog Democrat is???? =============== Reply 10 of Note 25 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 01/21 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:16 AM Jane, I loved that story too. It was so unusual, especially the peacock and the baby being pals, with neither of them being able to get settled down for the night without the other. I liked that the mother finally letting them "play" together in end led to the extraordinary feeling of well-being in the visiting couple. A kind of everyday paradox, that if you allow people to see that side of you that is a bit off-the-wall, a bit embarrassing, much good can come out of it. Sherry in snowy Milwaukee =============== Reply 11 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/21 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:45 PM Sherry, That is a good point about showing our "off-the-wall" sides to others. I know that we have all built barriers to protect ourselves from being hurt. It is great working with kids who haven't built really thick walls - yet! CR's seem to have their little quirks that make them endearing to other CR's. Are we all uptight in our regular lives? Jane who is wondering about these things =============== Reply 12 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/23 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 6:56 PM One of the many interesting things to me about "Feathers" was that Carver pulls the narrator and his wife into this odd scene of domesticity where they finally let down their guards and allow themselves to want that kind of dependence and love and it was their downfall. As a result of that night, they have a child of their own and the narrator seems to be saying that the child ruined their relationship. From a traditional point of view, that's more a male reaction to the coming of children, but the wife in this relationship seems to be equally angry about it ("Goddamn those people and their ugly baby.") Jane, thanks for quoting Carver's description of the ugly baby. That was absolutely classic, I thought. And, the model of what Olla's teeth had been like displayed prominently in the front room! It was such a perfect little microcosm of the kinds of situations that can drive and sustain a relationship, instead of all the hearts and flowers sentiments of popular songs. Everything I've read about Carver says that he was absolutely fascinated by these little interesting details that would come up in conversations with others, the newspaper, etc. Sometimes, it was a phrase that he built a story around or sometimes a little strange little detail of life that he heard. I'm sure that he must've heard somewhere about a peacock kept as a pet and a model of bad teeth kept on display. And, also this whole story reminds me of a less extreme Diane Arbus photograph. Does anyone remember her? She used to do these stark photographs of people with this frank attitude toward their difference. She kept popping into my head as I read this. This is definitely one of my favorite stories in the book. Barb =============== Reply 13 of Note 25 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 01/24 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 0:50 AM I do indeed remember Diane Arbus. And I FINALLY got my copy of Carver's stories today. Can't wait to delve into them. Ruth =============== Reply 14 of Note 25 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 01/24 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:39 AM I have a whole book of Arbus photographs. Very eery and disturbing. I can see the connection with the Carver stories, but with Arbus, there seems to be more evil lurking under the beds. Carver can sometimes be eery, but I think his people are very very human and he likes them, warts and all. I'm not so sure about Arbus. I sometimes got the feeling she was making fun of them. Sherry =============== Reply 15 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/24 From: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Time: 11:12 AM Sherry, yeah, I agree with you about Arbus; her attitude toward the people whose pictures she took is hard for me to figure out. I haven't read "Feathers" in a couple of years, but it is one of my favorites. I loved the peacocks in the trees. I seem to remember a teacher of mine saying that what Carver often wrote about was possibility. In a number of his stories there's often a window of possibility; of course, many times it shuts, too, as in "Feathers." To me, Arbus is much more aggressive than Carver, who did, as you say, seem to care for the people he's writing about. Meanwhile, I'll try to find his poem "Gravy" and post it. It's super. ---Susan =============== Reply 16 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 01/24 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 11:53 AM Barb, I'm finally getting into these stories too. I really liked your interpretation of the first one. That kid was more or less a casualty of the parents' battles with each other, wasn't he? I didn't like him much until that final scene, and then my heart went out to him. I'm skipping around a bit, but so far my favorite is "They're Not Your Husband" because it deals in such a cutting way with a very common human failing -- putting too much value on what others think about physical appearances. Hopefully, none of us is *quite* as insensitive as Earl on this score, who was certainly no prize himself. Carver reminds me a bit of Larry Brown, probably because of his spare style and the everyday type of characters he deals with. So far, I cetainly haven't encountered any brooding intellectuals. Ann =============== Reply 17 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 01/24 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 6:10 PM I agree with all of you about the Diane Arbus/Carver comparison. He does seem to have far more compassion for his characters. I think what made me think of her, in this story particularly, are the little events and people that he chooses. Another quality about him that is irresistable to me is his cut to the bone honesty. I get the feeling that he tried to look at his own and other's humanity with no gauze over the camera, if you know what I mean. For instance, Earl in "They're Not Your Husband" is expressing some pretty common human feelings, but very few people are telling others about them. The fact that he acted on them so aggressively is also uncommon, I hope. I got the feeling in lots of his stories that he was looking at himself without aid of filters as much as he was looking at others. =============== Reply 18 of Note 25 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 01/25 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 1:08 PM Just started this book yesterday. I'm struck by how short most of these stories are. Just moments, really. It's in his choice of WHAT moments to tell about that Carver's genius shows, I think. Ruth =============== Reply 19 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 01/25 From: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Time: 3:54 PM Ruth, that's such a good point Carver's choosing exactly which moment in a life to convey. It is genius, isn't it? Ann, this morning I read "They're Not Your Husband," after you mentioned it earlier. (I am reading piece-meal between hits of too much CNN.) It's a powerful story. It seems like all of Earl's doubts about himself are projected into his concern with his wife's weight. He is humiliated, I think, that she is working in such a job at all. Earl, who is unemployed, has lost his center of gravity, and perhaps that's why the comments of the guys in the diner get to him so much. And his digust with himself slowly poisons the household, too--his wife takes to staying in bed, etc. Sad> story & so well-written. Carver's stories seem particularly apt right now. Perhaps because I feel so dispirited about all the recent news from Washington. Many of the people in the stories I've read so far, such as the woman in "The Student's Wife," are really depressed. Susan =============== Reply 20 of Note 25 =================  
To: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Date: 01/26 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 5:38 PM Susan, Excellent reading of "They're Not Your Husband." I don't think that I thought enough about that story, but your take on it is absolutely on target. Some of Carver's genius is his focused description of what couples do to each other as they try to struggle through a not so easy life. And, Ruth, that's also a perfect description of what Carver does, picking exactly the right cutting just the right bits of film from the whole reel. Barb =============== Reply 21 of Note 25 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 01/26 From: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Time: 6:00 PM Barb, one of the amazing things about Carver's stories to me is his use of details, the specifics of a situation, and, of course, these specifics create a big picture without Carver having to announce one thing! I will try to read some more of the stories soon. I read CATHEDRAL three years ago & enjoyed it; the details of several of the stories, such as the one with the peacocks, have stuck with me. I also liked the story where the boy's father ends up getting into a fight with another kid's father. Susan =============== Reply 22 of Note 25 =================  
To: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Date: 01/26 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 8:15 PM New favorite -- "Distance", the story the father tells his daughter about the early days of his teenage marriage. I got married when I was much older, but I remember those days when my first son got sick and I panicked. This was really a sweet story, very different in tone from the other ones I have read so far. Of course, it was bittersweet, but then that may be as close as Carver comes to "happy." Any comments on "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" or "The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off"? I liked both of these, but what really impresses me about Carver is the overwhelming feeling of sadness that comes through in his stories. No wonder he drank. Ann =============== Reply 23 of Note 25 =================  
To: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Date: 01/27 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 12:35 PM Susan, Carver's use of details, and how most of his stories are not "stories" in the sense of a plot with a beginning, middle and end, but just snips or glimpses, reminds me of what my poetry teacher is always urging us to do--focus on what he calls the "image/moment". Use details to give a picture of a momemnt. I couldn't think of a better way to describe what Carver is doing. It enchants me. It isn't often that I come away from either an art gallery or a book saying to myself, "I want to do that." Carver makes me want to do that. And he makes it look easy enough that it gives me hope. Of course, it ain't easy, but making it look easy is a sign of a true master. Ruth, in warm sunny California, where the hills are this incredible green =============== Reply 24 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 01/27 From: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Time: 1:19 PM Ruth, I like that idea of "image/moment." While Grace Paley's writing differs from Carver's, I think she does some of the same thing. Her stories don't necessarily have the beginning/middle/end plot thing going on. Interesting. Susan, still looking for the "Gravy" poem by Carver =============== Reply 25 of Note 25 =================  
To: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Date: 01/27 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 7:51 PM I think you're right about Grace Paley. I like her work, too. Ruth =============== Reply 26 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 01/27 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:49 PM Ruth, I really enjoyed your post about capturing the moment. I have a couple of stories that I want to post about, one of them being "The Elephant". But as usual, I have spent so much time trying to get on Prodigy that I don't have time today. Jane, breezing by, in Denver where it was a lovely day for a parade =============== Reply 27 of Note 25 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 01/29 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:31 PM Gosh,I have been away from the board for a couple of days and there are no new posts on Carver. I found the story "Elephant" to be very interesting. Why was this man working himself to death for his freeloading family? I had a feeling that he was enjoying this situation. The story seemed to be told with humor, particularly when the narrator mentioned his ex-wife. She knew that she was going to get her money, no matter what. I looked at the quote that gave the story the title. The narrator is riding on his father's shoulders, and his father says, "Don't muss my hair...You can let go...I've got you. You won't fall." Then the narrator says, "My dad went on walking while I rode on his shoulders. I pretended he was an elephant." Is the narrator now the elephant who won't let any of his family members fall? He reminds me of my dad who has a similar philosophy about helping his family members. The narrator needed Ray Charles to sing "I'm Busted" to one and all. The story "Errand" really surprised me because of the historical setting and characters. Was Carver really envisioning his own death by using the death of Chekhov to tell his own feelings? Barb, I really enjoyed this book. Thanks for recommending it. I need to be forced by CR's to read short stories. Jane in warm and sunny Colorado =============== Reply 28 of Note 25 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 01/29 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 10:40 PM What about the story with the ugly baby? The ugly baby and the peacock. Got to me something metaphoric there. Has anyone one got any guesses? I can't get this story out of my head. Ruth, blanking out on the elephant =============== Reply 29 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/01 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 0:30 AM This was such a great book it's a pity our discussion has barely scratched the surface. I think it has more to do with the form of the book than with its content, though. So many very short stories, it's hard to get a coherent discussion going. Suffice it to say, I LOVED THIS BOOK. Was it your nomination Barbara? Ruth =============== Reply 30 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/01 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:35 AM I agree with you Ruth. Maybe we should have read each story one at a time and talked about it. I finished the whole thing before starting the discussion and found that I had forgotten titles and some details. I really meant to go back and reread parts so I could discuss them. I know some of the earlier stories had twists to them that I wanted to ask about. I'll be back (famous last words). Sherry in snow-melting Milwaukee =============== Reply 31 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/01 From: KEXT98A TONYA PRESLEY Time: 1:11 PM Sherry, You'll recall I said at chat I was trying to get out of this book, by starting others and so on. That was a mistake, of course, caused by choosing to read a few at random, out of order, that simply did not click for me. Because of my personality type or astrological sign or something else I don't understand, I won't give these annoying stories another thought. In the end, I love the book. I really enjoyed recognizing scenes from SHORT CUTS, and wound up renting that movie again last week. Tonya, glad I read this book =============== Reply 32 of Note 25 =================  
To: KEXT98A TONYA PRESLEY Date: 02/01 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 8:17 PM I've read three stories from Carver's collections, while standing at Barnes & Noble. I liked them a lot, but it was all I had time for in the frantic month of January. Particularly liked 'Elephant' -- a tale of another ENTJ. Dick =============== Reply 33 of Note 25 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/01 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:16 PM Dick, ENTJ?? Jane along with Spot =============== Reply 34 of Note 25 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/01 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:28 PM You know. One of those Oscar-Meyer-Pigs rational/mobilizers? Dick =============== Reply 2 of Note 2 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/14 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 6:31 PM Sherry tells me that I'm not too late to post some more notes here and so I will. My real life has been absorbing all of my time lately and I just haven't had a chance to get back. The recording of the interview of Carver that I listened to was done just prior to the publishing of the CATHEDRAL collection of stories. Carver was telling the interviewer about them with this sort of quiet pride. He said that he thought that it was the best work of his career to that point. I tend to agree with him but wonder if others do. When I read the book of interviews with his associates, a number of them liked the wilder quality of his earlier writing the best. You can look at the index in the front and see which stories came from what collection. Do you agree? Barb =============== Note 21 =================  
To: ALL Date: 01/12 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 9:20 AM ALTMAN on RAYMOND CARVER, (Part 1) from the introduction to the volume SHORT CUTS *** Raymond Carver made poetry out of the prosaic. One critic wrote that he "revealed the strangeness concealed behind the banal," but I think what he really did was capture the wonderful idiosyncrasies of human behavior, the idiosyncrasies that exist amid the randomness of life's experiences. And human behavior, filled with all its mystery and inspiration, has always fascinated me. I look at all of Carver's work as just one story, for his stories are all occurrences, all about things that just happen to people and cause their lives to take a turn. Maybe the bottom falls out. Maybe they have a near-miss with disaster. Maybe they just have to go on, knowing things they don't really want to know about one another. They're more about what you *don't* know rather than what you *do* know, and the reader fills in the gaps, while recognizing the undercurrents. In formulating the mosaic of the film SHORT CUTS, which is based on these nine stories and the poem "Lemonade," I've tried to do the same thing--to give the audience one look. But the film could go on forever, because it's like life--lifting the roof off the Weathers' home and seeing Stormy decimate his furniture with a skillsaw, then lifting off another roof, the Kaisers', or the Wymans', or the Shepherds', and seeing some different behavior. We've taken liberties with Carver's work: characters have crossed over from one story to another; they connect by various linking devices; names may have changed. And though some purists and Carver fans may be upset, this film has been a serious collaboration between the actors, my co-writer Frank Barhydt, and the Carver material in this collection. When I first spoke to the poet Tess Gallagher, Ray's widow, about wanting to make this film, I told her I wasn't going to be pristine in my approach to Carver and that the stories were going to be scrambled. She instinctively recognized and encouraged this, and said Ray was an admirer of my film NASHVILLE, that he liked the helplessness of those characters and their ability to manage nevertheless. She also knew that artists in different fields must use their own skills and vision to do their work. Cinematic equivalents of literary material manifest themselves in unexpected ways. Through the years of writing, shaping, and planning SHORT CUTS, through the myriad financial dealings and turnarounds, Tess and I had numerous discussions and conducted a steady correspondence. The way she received information changed my attitude about things, so I feel I've had discussions with Ray through Tess. She's been a real contributor to the film. I read all of Ray's writings, filtering him through my own process. The film is made of little pieces of his work that form sections of scenes and characters out of the most basic elements of Ray's creations--new, but *not* new. Tess and Zoe trainer, the emotionally displaced mother and daughter played by Annie Ross and Lori Singer, provide the musical bridges in the film--Annie's jazz and Lori's cello. They are characters Frank Barhydt and I invented, but Tess Gallagher felt they were consistent with Ray's characters and could have come out of his story "Vitamins." Raymond Carver's view of the world, and probably my own, may be termed dark by some. We're connected by similar attitudes about the arbitrary nature of luck in the scheme of things--the Finnegans' child being hit by a car in "A Small, Good Thing," the Kanes' marriage upheaval resulting from a body being discovered during a fishing trip in "So Much Water So Close to Home." *** (Concluded in next post) =============== Reply 1 of Note 21 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 01/13 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 11:11 AM ALTMAN on CARVER, Part 2 (Concl.) from the foreword to the collection SHORT CUTS *** Someone wins the lottery. The same day, that person's sister gets killed by a brick falling off a building in Seattle. Those are both the same thing. The lottery was won both ways. The odds of either happening are very much against you and yet they both happened. One got killed and the other got rich; it's the same action. One of the reasons we transposed the settings of the stories from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California was that we wanted to place the action in a vast suburban setting so that it would be fortuitous for the characters to meet. There were logistical considerations as well, but we wanted the linkages to be accidental. The setting is untapped Los Angeles, which is also Carver country, not Hollywood or Beverly Hills--but Downey, Watts, Compton, Pomona, Glendale--American suburbia, the names you hear about on the freeway reports. We have 22 principal actors in the cast, and they brought things to this film I wouldn't have dreamed of, thickening it, enriching it. Part of this I have to attribute to the foundation of SHORT CUTS--the Carver writings. Only three or four of these actors ever appeared together in the film because each week we began another story, with another family. But we gave the cast all of the original stories, and many went on to read more of Ray's work. The first family we filmed were the Piggotts', Earl and Doreen, played by Tom Waits and Lily Tomlin, in their trailer park and at Johnnie's Broiler, a classic California coffee shop where Doreen waitresses. Their work was so superb that I thought I'd be in trouble, but all of the actors stepped up to that level, going beyond or sideways from my expectations, taking over and redefining their roles. The characters do a lot of storytelling in the film, telling little stories about their lives. Many of them are Carver stories or paraphrases of Carver stories or inspired by Carver stories, so we always tried to stay as close as possible to his world, given film's collaborative imperative. The actors also realized that the particulars these Carver people are talking about aren't the same thing. The elements seemed flexible. They could be talking about anything. Which is not to say the language isn't important, but its subject doesn't have to be X, Y, or Z. It could be Q or P or H. It's a matter of who these people are that determines how they respond to what they're saying. It's not what they're saying that causes the scene to happen, but the fact that these characters are playing the scene. So whether they're talking about how to make a peanut butter sandwich or how to murder their neighbor, the content isn't as significant as what these characters feel and do in the situation, as they develop. Writing and directing are both acts of discovery. In the end, the film is there and the stories are there and one hopes there is a fruitful interaction. Yet in directing SHORT CUTS, certain things came straight out of my own sensibility, which has its differences, and this is as it should be. I know Ray Carver would have understood that I had to go beyond paying tribute. Something new happened in the film, and maybe that's the truest form of respect. But it all began here. I was a reader turning those pages. Trying on these lives.


My own favorite Carver story is "Why Don't You Dance?" No matter how many times I read it, it hits me like a ton of bricks. Not quite reality, not quite fantasy, not quite magical realism, but a very potent brew of something that touches our idealized notion of domesticity at its raw core.
Dale in Ala.
I get the feeling that he tried to look at his own and other's humanity with no gauze over the camera, if you know what I mean. For instance, Earl in "They're Not Your Husband" is expressing some pretty common human feelings, but very few people are telling others about them.
Barbara Moors
Carver's use of details, and how most of his stories are not "stories" in the sense of a plot with a beginning, middle and end, but just snips or glimpses, reminds me of what my poetry teacher is always urging us to do--focus on what he calls the "image/moment".
Ruth Bavetta

In Association with