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" . . . drains away the strength to resist.",
This review is from: No Heroics, Please: Uncollected Writings (Paperback)
There's something encouraging about discovering the pitfalls of a figure previously thought to be invincible. Upon reading through Raymond Carver's uncollected writings, No Heroics, Please, I was thrilled to not be enjoying myself. "Furious Seasons" is bad mediocre Faulkner, while "The Aficionados" is a rib on Hemingway bullfighting obsession. "Poseiden and Company" is nearly pointless. "Bright Red Apples" is like something I'd write if I was into ripping off Flannery O'Connor and ending on a melodramatic note. The best fiction here is "The Hair," and even that is just an uneventful sign of what was to come. The segment of the novel is all right, but there's no way he could have sustained that for longer than 20-30 pages, especially being the revision-hound that he was. If these early stories were all I had ever read, I certainly wouldn't have read more.
Of course, lots more came. Genius stuff, too. So I don't have room to talk, but it's like I've watched a home movie of "giant's first steps" and seen him fall down a bunch. Surely guys like Carver come out of the womb with a furrowed brow and a knack for prose. Or so I thought.
I focused on the fiction present in this collection, though the poetry is less-than-stellar as well. Carver's poetry isn't that great to begin with, falling into the same traps as Bukowski's poetry, where the poem is just a shortchanged story with line-breaks. The book reviews aren't that good either, as his summaries give away too much (I started skipping the summary and just reading his thoughts) and his opinions--while being well thought-out and written--are essentially underwhelming (something I'd know all about). The "Occasions" section is interesting, though with conversational non-fiction, it's hard to mess up. The essay on "Friendship" was a bit cheesy (he finally let his happiness get to him! Another victory for mere mortals) and the meditation was all right at best. The section with a bunch of introductions completely escapes me, with the exception of the Unknown Chekhov, which I own.
So why read this? If for no other reason, read it after you've read everything else, just to prove to yourself that Carver wasn't a God. At least not at first.