[Finished 21 May 2013] An amazingly comprehensive collection of Carvers fiction. The inclusion of both What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Beginners provides an interesting opportunity for seeing Gordon Lishs editing process at work.
There’s the cliché among writers of “killing your darlings.” Comparing the Lish and Carver versions of the stories, Lish not only killed Carver’s darlings, but he burned down their houses, and tracked down and slaughtered all of the darlings’ friends and relatives. In many cases, the Lish version of the story was half the length (if not less) of the original Carver version and the excisions almost always improved the story, allowing the central Truth to shine without so much unnecessary explaining (“Tell the Women We’re Going” is a notable example of this with Lish eliminating a lot of unnecessary explanation behind the motivation for the murder of the girls—as well as having Jerry kill both girls and not just one as was the case in the original story). There are some bizarre emendations made by Lish though. I can’t help but wonder what made him change the room number in “Gazebo” or the name of the cardiologist in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”
The small selection of Carvers essays is another nice bonus, providing a chance to get some insight into Carvers own view of his writing process. I entered this volume having never read a Carver short story and I left it a huge Carver fan.