What we talk about when we talk about love…

The New Yorker

I get my magazines late here in China and tend to let them pile up before reading them. I was completely floored by this issue of The New Yorker, which appeared in late December, and contained a lot of stuff about Raymond Carver and his troubling relationship with his editor, Gordon Lish. It also included the unedited version of one of his most famous stories: “What we talk about when we talk about love.”
Carver had called it “Beginners,” and the original is as powerful and elegant a piece of short fiction as you’re likely to encounter. I highly recommend people read it through the link below.
First, from the article about Carver and Lish:
In the years following the book’s publication, Carver seemed determined to keep Lish as a friend and “brother,” even as an editor, but he now set stricter editorial boundaries. There was a shift in power. Carver demanded his autonomy. “Gordon, God’s truth, and I may as well say it out now,” he wrote in August, 1982, about his latest stories. “I can’t undergo the kind of surgical amputation and transplant that might make them someway fit into the carton so the lid will close.”
Carver’s next story collection, “Cathedral,” was published in 1983, and was an even greater success, winning praise again on the cover of the Times Book Review, this time from Irving Howe, who wrote that in Carver’s more expansive later work one saw “a gifted writer struggling for a larger scope of reference, a finer touch of nuance.” In an interview with The Paris Review that year, Carver made clear that he preferred the new expansiveness: “I knew I’d gone as far the other way as I could or wanted to go, cutting everything down to the marrow, not just to the bone. Any farther in that direction and I’d be at a dead end––writing stuff and publishing stuff I wouldn’t want to read myself, and that’s the truth. In a review of the last book, somebody called me a ‘minimalist’ writer. The reviewer meant it as a compliment. But I didn’t like it.”
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