Raymond Carver is one of my favorite short story writers. His short, terse prose paints a world full of broken people trying to fix broken lives. I first read a Carver short story in a literature class at Clackamas Community College (still the best lit class I’ve taken) where we read “The Third Thing that Killed My Father.” I knew there was something different about his writing, and I’ve loved him ever since. I think that if I were a writer, I’d want to emulate his style. Simple writing, uncomplicated story, believable characters.
Short Cuts is not an original collection. It was culled together for Robert Altman’s 1993 film of the same name. He took a sampling of stories for the movie, and this collection was released. While they are not my favorite Carver selections overall, there are gems here. My favorite in this collection is “A Small, Good Thing.” It tells the story of a couple dealing with the sudden death of their son on his birthday, finding solace in the local baker.
Many of Carver’s characters are people at the end of their moral rope, hopeless in marriage, work, or just life overall. While some may consider this depressing subject matter, Carver is able to show the need for grace in our lives. These people are people just like us: broken, imperfected, confused, in need of grace and hope.
If you are interested in exploring more of Raymond Carver, I suggest buying his collection, What We Talk about When We Talk about Love. In that book, you can read “The Third Thing that Killed My Father” and “Everything Stuck to Him.” The latter is one of my favorite stories of all short stories. I teach it almost every year to Juniors, and it still touches me as it did when I first read it.
Recently, Will Ferrell starred in a film based on a Raymond Carver short story, Everything Must Go. While it is not a good reflection of Carver’s minimalist style, it offers a sampling of the people who live in Carver’s universe.