Monday, December 12, 2016

Review: Collected Stories

Collected Stories Collected Stories by Raymond Carver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I illuminate (myself)
with immensity (Ungaretti)


I illuminate (myself)
with minimalism

Je suis revenu chercher un asile dans l’impeccable naïveté (Baudelaire)

“Più di una volta ho cercato, (…), di rinchiudermi in un sistema per predicarvi a mio agio. Un sistema però è una sorta di dannazione, che ci spinge a una perpetua abiura: occorre sempre inventarne un altro, e questa fatica è un crudele castigo. E sempre il mio sistema era bello, vasto, spazioso, comodo, proprio e soprattutto levigato, o perlomeno così mi sembrava. E sempre un prodotto della vitalità universale, spontaneo e inatteso, veniva a smentire la mia scienza infantile e vecchiotta, figlia deplorabile dell’utopia. Avevo un bel spostare o estendere il criterio, questo era sempre in ritardo sull’uomo universale, e correva senza posa dietro il bello multiforme e versicolore che si muove nelle spirali infinite della vita. Condannato senza fine all’umiliazione di una nuova conversione, ho preso una gran decisione. Per fuggire l’orrore di queste apostasie filosofiche, mi sono orgogliosamente rassegnato alla modestia: mi sono accontentato di sentire, sono tornato a cercare asilo nell’impeccabile ingenuità” (Baudelaire)


It is August.
My life is going to change. I feel it. (7)

Bill and Arlene Miller were a happy couple. But now and then they felt they alone among their circle had been passed by somehow, leaving Bill to attend to his bookkeeping duties and Arlene occupied with secretarial chores. They talked about it sometimes, mostly in comparison with the lives of their neighbors, Harriet and Jim Stone. It seemed to the Millers that the Stones lived a fuller and brighter life. The Stones were always going out for dinner, or entertaining at home, or traveling about the country somewhere in connection with Jim’s work. (8)

“Vern, you want something to eat?” I called.
He didn’t answer. I could hear water running in the bathroom. But I thought he might want something. We get hungry this time of night. I put bread and lunchmeat on the table and I opened a can of soup. I got out crackers and peanut butter, cold meat loaf, pickles, olives, potato chips. I put everything on the table. Then I thought of the apple pie. (16)

From where he stood he could see his mother’s fingers working in her lap, tracing the raised design in the blanket. (57)

Then they drove to the market and bought cream soda and potato chips and corn chips and onion flavored snack crackers. At the checkout counter he added a handful of U-No bars to the order.
“Hey, yeah,” she said when she saw them. (61)

I was out of work. But any day I expected to hear from up north. I lay on the sofa and listened to the rain. Now and then I’d lift up and look through the curtain for the mailman.
There was no one on the street, nothing. (78)

“Mike? Honey? I wish you’d rub my legs. My legs hurt,” she said.
“God,” he said softly, “I was sound asleep.” (96)

I hadn’t realize he was so drunk until we started driving again. I noticed the way he was driving. It was terribly slow. He was all hunched over the wheel. His eyes staring. We were talking about a lot of things that didn’t make sense. I can’t remember. We were talking about Nietzsche. Strindberg. (178)
Poor Friedrich Wilhelm…


We're none of us the same. We're moving on. The story
continues, but we're no longer the main characters.
James Salter, Light Years (192)

Slow, thick flakes sifted down through the freezing air, sticking on his coat collar, melting cold and wet against his face. He stared at the wordless, distorted things around him. (204)


That duration which maketh Pyramids
pillars of snow, and all that's past a moment.
Sir Thomas Browne.

The gutter water rushed over his feet, swirled frothing into a great whirlpool at the drain on the corner and rushed down to the center of the earth. (220)


“When we were just kids before we married?” Holly goes. “When we had big plans and hopes? You remember?”
She was sitting on the bed, holding her knees and her drink. (238)

I thought for a minute of the world outside my house, and then I didn’t have any more thoughts except the thought that I had to hurry up and sleep. (243)

They saw each other every Saturday and Sunday, sometimes oftener if it was a holiday. If the weather was good, they’d be over at Jerry’s to barbecue hot dogs and turn the kids loose in the wading pool Jerry had got for next to nothing, like a lot of other things he got from the Mart. (259)

“What do any of us really know about love?” Mel said. (314)

He said, “I just want to say one more thing.”
But then he could not think what it could possibly be. (326)

She kicked off her shoes and leaned back on the sofa. Then she sat up and tugged her sweater over her head. She patted her hair into place. She took one of the cigarettes from the tray. I held the lighter for her and was momentarily astonished by the sight of her slim, pale fingers and her well-manicured nails. It was as if I were seeing them in a new and somewhat revealing way. (330)

Lying is just a sport for some people. (331)


It was early evening, nice and warm, and we saw pastures, rail fences, milk cow moving slowly toward old barns. We saw red-winged blackbirds on the fences, and pigeons circling around haylofts. There were gardens and such, wildflowers in bloom, and little houses set back from the road. I said, “I wish we had us a place out here.” (361)

She moved in front of him and started taking things off the shelves and putting stuff on the table. He helped. He took the meat out of the freezer and put the packages on the table. The he took the other things out of the freezer and put them in a different place on the table. He took everything out and then found the paper towels and the dishcloth and started wiping up inside. (387)

“You probably need to eat something,” the baker said. “I hope you’ll eat some of my hot rolls. You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this,” he said. (424)

“Anyway, we need to try something. We’ll try this first. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. That’s life, isn’t it?” (445)

She moves forward in the chair. She tries to take her hand back.
“What would you tell them?”
She sighs and leans back. She lets me keep the hand. “I’d say, ‘Dreams, you know, are what you wake up from.’ That’s what I say. (507)

He says he can’t understand these people. “People who sail through life like the world owes them a living.” (512)

(from) WHERE I’M CALLING FROM (***** )

A tribute to Chekhov.

The crows work their way through the grass in the front yard. I hear the mower howl and then thud as it picks up a clump of grass in the blade and comes to a stop. In a minute, after several tries, Larry gets it going again. The crows fly off, back to their wire. (541)

I get into bed and take some covers. But the covers don’t feel right. I don’t have any sheet; all I have is blanket. I look down and see my feet sticking out. I turn onto my side, facing her, and bring my legs up so that my feet are under the blanket. We should make up the bed again. (547)

I looked out the window. The sky was blue, with a few white clouds in it. Some birds clung to a telephone wire. I wiped my face on my sleeve. (591)

It could be said, for instance, that to take a wife is to take a history. (613)


Best novels: Kindling, and Call If You Need Me.

He thought for a minute, then opened the notebook, and at the top of a blank white page he wrote the words Emptiness is the beginning of all things.


My Father’s Life
“What are you going to write about?” he wanted to know. Then, as if to help me out, he said, “Write about stuff you know about. Write about those fishings trip we took.” I said I would, but I knew I wouldn’t.

On Writings
What creates tension in a piece of fiction is partly the way the concrete words are linked together to make up the visible action of the story.


Best novels: If It Please You, Dummy (remembering Steinbeck), Distance, and Beginners.

“When we were just kids before we married?” Holly goes. “When we drove around every night and spent every possible minute together and talked and big plans and hopes? Do you remember?” She was sitting in the center of the bed, holding her knee and her drink.
“I remember, Holly.”

I came back hard, twice. I had him, all right. The steel casting rod bowed over and sprung wildly back and forth. Father kept yelling, “Let him go, let him go! Let him run with it! Give him more line, Jack! Now wind in! Wind in! No, let him run! Woo-ee! Look at him go!”

But he continues to stand at the window, remembering that gone life. After that morning there would be those hard times ahead, other women for him and another man for her, but that morning, that particular morning, they had danced. They danced, and then they held to each other as if there would always be that morning, and later they laughed about the waffle. They leaned on each other and laughed about it until tears came, while outside everything froze, for a while anyway.

Sometimes you can hear the snow falling.

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