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Where I'm Calling from: Selected Stories Hardcover – September, 1998

4.4 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Hardcover, September, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The last story collection published during Carver's life (he died in 1988) contains most of his greatest hits from his earlier books, as well as seven stories that hadn't been collected up to that point. The breadth of the collection makes these 37 stories an extremely complete map of Carver territory, of a particular area of America and of the specific texture of the people Carver writes about -- their difficult attempts at survival in a world where happiness does not arrive wrapped up in neat packages but comes in far more peculiar parcels, if it comes at all. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The cool streamlined style of this modern master of the short story has spawned dozens of younger writers who seek to follow in Carver's footsteps. But where the Brat Pack frequently produces flat, unresonating fiction, Carver has the ability to render graceful prose from dreary, commonplace, scraping-the-bottom human misery. This collection consists of 30 stories selected from four previous volumes, and seven new tales. Appearing in order of original publication, they reflect Carver's developmentfrom 1963 to the present. We meet many of his characters just as something dear to them is slipping away. Jobs, cars, the affection of a spouse or child, the routine of lifeall can be lost. Even in the more upbeat stories, a narrator recalls a happy occasion that, in retrospect, marked a change for the worse, or a high point in a life since gone sour. In Carver's world, ashtrays overflow, wives are usually ex-, and drinkers are drunks. Seedy and dishonest characters are glimpsed in the process of once again doing the wrong thing. One of the new stories, "The Errand," which is in part an account of Chekhov's death, is offered as a tip of the hat to the great short story writer. Even here, with more affecting and finished prose than ever before, Carver's rendering gives us all the intimacy of a medical chart. Aptly named, he is a carver of flesh from the bone. Paperback rights to Vintage.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 430 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr; 10 Anv edition (September 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871137216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871137210
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,849,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on January 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Raymond Carver is unique among contemporary American men of letters in that he is known almost exclusively for his short stories. Though he published other books, most notably collections of his poetry, his real genius was in the abbriviated summation of ordinary human experience in the short prose form.
This volume is a great introduction to Carver's stories because it represents a selection of his best work from every phase of his career. It is clear from the first story that his special gift is in somehow making a slice of life universal. His stories have hardly any plot and character is revealed rather than described. The essense of his character's lives are distilled into a few scenes wherein the reader can grasp a universe of unspoken meanings. The simplest things in Carver's hands take on a depth of meaning and a resonance that tends to haunt one long after the story is read. There is no overt artifice employed; the stories are deceptively simple. Yet all of these stories, like good poems, pack lots of meaning into a compressed form. His stories are not so much 'about' love, grief, deception, failure, longing and hatred as they are captured moments that embody these elements of the human condition and allow us to really feel what the characters feel. The very lack of exposition and detailed context is part of what makes these moments so powerful. Like a Rorschach ink blot, the short scenes depicted can call forth from each reader a variety of different interpretations and meanings. That is perhaps what is really great about these stories. Every reader can agree on the overt content, but no two are likely to agree about what they really mean, despite almost everyone having a strong emotional response to them. This is unique and superior writing that no lover of literature should miss.
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Format: Paperback
People who consider Raymond Carver to be a strictly minimalist writer should really read this book from cover to cover. What they will discover is a career on the cusp of change, just before the author's life was tragically cut short. The stories are presented in chronological order. The opening dozen stories or so are classics of minimalist style which reaches its peak with the devestating 3-page story "Little Things" in which a child is literally torn apart by its parents divorce.
But Carver's tone and style changes in the stories that follow. "What We Talk About When We Talk about Love" and the gut-wrenching "So Much Water So Close To Home" take on a new level of story-telling where Carver gives us a more intimate look at his characters. The last two of the previously published stories are nothing like the earlier stories. In "Cathedral", a typical Carver married man--distant, cynical, and slightly smug--makes surprising contact with another human being, presumably for the first time, in the most unlikely of situations. It is almost a salvation. "A Good Small Thing" (which was a revision of an earlier story called "Scotty") is nothing less than a masterpiece. In Carver's earlier career, this story would have ended bitterly and, perhaps, indifferently. Instead, this story ends up with an astonishing flavor of hope, forgiveness, and even closure. The seven "New Stories" at the collection's end just drive home the fact that Carver was really moving forward or at least in a new direction. I defy anyone to read "Intimacy" or "Elephant" and say, "Typical minimalism." I would place a heavy bet that the reader would reply the same way I did, "Damn! Damn! Can you imagine what he'd be writing if he were still with us?"
Rocco Dormarunno, Author of The Five Points
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Format: Paperback
Raymond Carver has been compared, rightly, to Chekhov because of his ability to absorb the reader in a "small" story and say something profound about the human condition. Absent in Carver's stories are stereotypical characters. For example, in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," we read a story about a heart surgeon, Mel McGuiness, who is obsessed with preaching the virutes of absolute love to his wife and two friends, another couple. As we read the story, we see evidence that Mel is the embodiment of the absence of love. He is imperious, bullying, dogmatic, control-obsessed, fearful of life. Yet Carver doesn't allow us to dismiss Mel so easily. As Mel pontificates on love and gets more and more drunk, we are afforded glimpses of Mel's profound wisdom, which shows that there are two Mels, a tyrant and a vulnerable searcher of truth, that are warring against each other. Mel, the searcher of truth, knows there is a more profound, permanent love than merely carnal or erotic passion. At one point in the story, he confesses, in a moment of drunkenness, that he is completely ignorant of life. We sympathize with Mel's passion for "ultimate love," yet we are at the same time appalled at Mel's bullying and vanity.
Mel's character is indicative of the kind of complexities and contradictions that Carver dramatizes in his very readable stories.
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Format: Paperback
"It's possible," wrote Raymond Carver, "to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language . . . with immense, even startling power." All of Carver's stories are about everyday characters and events. They often, like the stories of Hemingway, end with little or no resolution. But underneath every simple story lies a strange, complex anxiety.
In his early days, Carver was a hell-bound alcoholic, and his early writing reflects his way of life. "What's In Alaska?" details the unraveling of a couple's relationship. Like Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants," the story progresses through revealing and anguishing dialogue.
Carver eventually managed to pull himself together and his writing became, in turn, beautiful, poetic and somewhat hopeful. His story "Cathedral" is a masterpiece; its characters, as with those in most of his stories, are trying to overcome their apathy and inarticulateness. "Cathedral" possesses a small shimmer of joy. Perhaps his best work, the story involves a husband's difficulty in accepting a blind friend of his wife's. "I wasn't enthusiastic about the visit," he states in the beginning of the story. The blind man comes to the house and spends the evening with the couple. The husband is uncomfortable with the blind man, his way of looking at things, his smell. To break the ice he offers the man some pot, and the two men smoke together. The story builds as the two talk in front of the television together and it ends with a perfect, shimmering moment.
Carver managed to drop his drinking habit, but his love of smoking cut his career and his life short. His life ended just as the lives of his characters were beginning to brighten up.
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