What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is Raymond Carver's most famous collection of short stories and remains one of the most influential pieces of modern literature to date. But the original, unedited manuscript, Beginners - published here for the first time, was almost fifty per cent longer than the published collection. This restored version of Carver's stories reveal what was previously unsaid, filling in the narrative silences that have both inspired and mystified readers for so long. Beginners is a fascinating insight into the aesthetic of a literary great and, in the questions it raises, may just spark off one of the great cultural debates of our times.
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Beginners is unlikely to replace What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Instead, it will be in dialogue with it, because the story has no end: there will always be afterthoughts - Guardian
Hopefully, thanks to Gallagher, every small, vital nuance, every moving observation, each choice of word as Carver wrote it, is there to be seen; that is why Carver cared enough to begin setting it right, and others have now finished the task - Irish Times
An extraordinary book, more generous and rambling in tone than its distilled counterpart - Observer
a landmark book, full of surprises. - Telegraph
Lish may have helped put Carver on the map of the American short story, but the writer made himself its capital city. - Sunday Times
His style is fearsome: remorselessly spare and precise yet so sharply nuanced that the ordinary people he writes about are exposed in all their messy, emotional weakness...Pure pleasure to read on its own, it is also fascinating to compare against the Lish version. - Daily Mail
Here, for the first time, we can read the original versions. They are very good. - Scotsman
These vignettes remain tremendously distinctive and their characters' generally doomed attempts to keep their hope alive 'in the world of men - where defeat and death are more the natural order of things' are wry and touching. Carver's landscapes of motels, 'negroes' and 'longhairs' are documents from another era, but they are grubby, flawed little gems that still fascinate. - Guardian
The surprise is that despite Carver's well-earned reputation for spare, grainy prose that dipped into the hard-bitten lives of his characters, these stories have a richness of texture that complements Carver's austerity of tone. Lish seems to have flattened Carver's style, rather than sharpening it, and the tales in Beginners demonstrate just how great a writer Carver was - Financial Times
Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, in 1938. He grew up in Yakima, Washington; graduated from Humboldt State College in northern California; and attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He published his first short story in 1960, and his poetry and fiction appeared in periodicals and anthologies over the next two decades. Carver's stories reached a wider audience with the 1976 publication of Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? With the appearance of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love in 1981 his writing received international recognition. Gordon Lish served as editor of both collections, but he surprised Carver by cutting the original manuscript of What We Talk About by more than half before its publication. Carver had dedicated the book to his fellow writer, companion, and future wife, Tess Gallagher, promising her that he would one day republish his stories at full length. Beginners restores the seventeen stories from What We Talk About to the forms in which he submitted them to his editor.All but four had previously appeared in literary magazines. Carver went on to publish two more collections of stories, Cathedral and Elephant, each of which departed from the astringent 'minimalism' of What We Talk About and developed the nuanced empathy and expansiveness that was emerging in Beginners. His honors include one of the first Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Awards, nominations for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and Poetry magazine's Levinson Prize. In 1988 he was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Hartford. Raymond Carver died on 2 August 1988 at age fifty, shortly after completing a book of poems published posthumously as A New Path to Waterfall. He was acclaimed 'America's Chekhov' in the Sunday Times after his death. Tess Gallagher (born 1943) is an acclaimed poet, essayist, author and playwright. Her honors include a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, two National Endowment for the Arts awards, and the Maxine Cushing Gray Foundation Award. She met Raymond Carver at a writers' conference in 1978, and the couple were married in 1988, six weeks prior to his death. As his will directed, she assumed the management of his literary estate. She published five Carver stories posthumously in Call If You Need Me, and successfully campaigned for the republishing of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love as Beginners, in their original and intended form. She currently teaches at Bucknell University and Whitman College.