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Elephant and Other Stories

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These seven stories were the last that Carver wrote. Among them is Errand in which he imagines the death of Chekhov, a writer Carver hugely admired and to whose work his own was often compared. Stories included: - Boxes - Whoever Was Using this Bed - Intimacy - Menudo - Elephant - Blackbird Pie - Errand


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These seven stories were the last that Carver wrote. Among them is Errand in which he imagines the death of Chekhov, a writer Carver hugely admired and to whose work his own was often compared. Stories included: - Boxes - Whoever Was Using this Bed - Intimacy - Menudo - Elephant - Blackbird Pie - Errand

30 review for Elephant and Other Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    I’ve read this a few times now - it’s a book I return to every so often simply because it grows in my mind between each re-read; the stories evolve and live on, and I want to find out: have they become what I think they have? Were they always that thing and did I recognise this during the last reading - that I wasn’t quite up to the task of reading them yet? Take the opening story here, Boxes. I’ve read it - and the other stories here - seven or eight times, with gaps of a couple of years betwee I’ve read this a few times now - it’s a book I return to every so often simply because it grows in my mind between each re-read; the stories evolve and live on, and I want to find out: have they become what I think they have? Were they always that thing and did I recognise this during the last reading - that I wasn’t quite up to the task of reading them yet? Take the opening story here, Boxes. I’ve read it - and the other stories here - seven or eight times, with gaps of a couple of years between each re-read, on average. Could a story like that - about a peripatetic, restless mother, and a son waiting for her next fruitless move, to another place (or perhaps a place she’s already lived in) - yield something new with yet another re-read? And it does - it’s an inexhaustibly poignant story. This time it’s the detail of Jill, the narrator’s partner, who tires of the stress the mother has on her son, and her picking out new curtains towards the end of the story. (Did Sofia Coppola read this before Lost in Translation?) Jill confronts the mother about her constant, to her pointless, wandering habits and the negative effect such incessant uprootings have in a way the son cannot. But at the point whereby the son somehow (but definitively) realises he’s never again going to see his mother, Jill is more interested in the decor. That I’d missed this detail in prior readings, or had forgotten it, meant that I didn’t see Boxes as a bleak comedy; I’d also given Jill far more due than I think Carver wanted me to. I already understood that she couldn’t stand the mother, but with this little detail, dropped in right at the end, I realised she was equally disinterested in her partner; that the son might as well spend more time with his mother than Jill; that the reason he would not see his mother again was due to Jill’s distaste, not just for the mother, but for anyone but herself. (And of course: this reading may be wrong. The point being: it’s yet another version of this story, to add to the seven or eight others I’ve already enjoyed (and got wrong). Or: is each reading of a story at a specific time the right reading, the only reading, the reading needed before the next nested within can be sought?) Intimacy is about a writer who revisits his ex-wife (for no apparent reason, although it becomes apparent only as odd behaviour - albeit apparently inevitable, unperceived behaviour - occurs). She isn’t happy to see him - he has used their life countless times in his work - and he waits it out as she launches a tirade it seems is overdue. Previously I’d read this as a kind of self-exculpation. ‘See how terrible my ex-wife is?’ But also: ‘See how terrible I am for mining our marriage for fictional gems? And yet, wasn’t this reasonable, reader, in that both of us were the beneficiary?’ This time, however, I found the writer to be a heinous character, a self-appointed martyr, mailing off news cuttings of his latest review to a wife he’s otherwise as good as erased, rubbing her nose in his life, from which she’s been expunged. And he ends up on his knees, wordless, grasping at the hem of her dress, desperate for one more debasement from his ex-wife, which she provides: reluctant forgiveness. The story now becomes horrific (and hilarious): all the man can do is ransack his doomed experiences with other people for repute, and then ask to be let off for doing so. That I saw in the furious ex a bit of a harpy previously is a bit shameful: I felt he’d made a decent case for the protagonist/narrator’s emancipation. Now it reads as self-immolation. All seven stories felt different once again; all gave up further riches. All were funnier and sadder than before; and every single one is a *****. And this, from Menudo: I’d always felt it was about a wife who went crazy, and an unfortunate man who subsequently fell apart, never recovered this event that ended his first marriage. Now I see it as someone lacking in empathy, incapable of finding fault or responsibility in himself and his own actions, pompous and doomed to a terminal and righteous parochialism. (But funnily so, self-lampooning, expertly deployed by a master.) The first line of the final page rang alarm bells...but will the next reading suggest something else altogether? Probably, and I hope it does. ‘This girl I’d started out with in life, this sweet thing, this gentle soul, she wound up going to fortune-tellers, palm readers, crystal ball gazers, looking for answers, trying to figure out what she should do with her life. She quit her job, drew out her teacher’s retirement money, and thereafter never made a decision without consulting the I Ching. She even got involved with a group that sat around, I’m not kidding, trying to levitate. When Molly and I were growing up together, she was a part of me and, sure, I was a part of her too. We loved each other. It was our destiny. I believed in it then myself. But now I don’t know what to believe in. I’m not complaining, simply stating a fact. I’m down to nothing. And I have to go on like this. No destiny. Just the next thing meaning whatever you think it does. Compulsion and error, just like everybody else. I’d like to go out in the front yard and shout something. “None of this is worth it!” That’s what I’d like people to hear. “Destiny,” Molly said. For all I know she’s still talking about it.’

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    One of the all time great collections of short stories. Seven more situations Carver uses to prise insight, weird humour, beauty and horror our of our lives, the lives we live but never volunteered for in the first place : 1. “Boxes”. A man’s mother continually moves around the country. This drives him crazy. It would though, wouldn't it? 2. “Whoever was using this bed”. a couple are woken at three in the morning by a wrong number which keeps ringing back. They give up sleep and have a long rambl One of the all time great collections of short stories. Seven more situations Carver uses to prise insight, weird humour, beauty and horror our of our lives, the lives we live but never volunteered for in the first place : 1. “Boxes”. A man’s mother continually moves around the country. This drives him crazy. It would though, wouldn't it? 2. “Whoever was using this bed”. a couple are woken at three in the morning by a wrong number which keeps ringing back. They give up sleep and have a long rambling conversation in which they realise they're both frightened of illness, death and various other things 3. “Intimacy”. A writer drops in unannounced on his ex-wife. She insults him vociferously and at great length. (“Then you held me up for display and ridicule in your so-called work”). He asks for forgiveness and gets it. 4. “Menudo”. A man is having an affair with his neighbour’s wife. And he's sorry for it. 5. “Elephant”. A guy's life is made unbearable by having to continually bail out his ex-wife, his mother, his son and his brother from their financial catastrophes. . 6. “Blackbird Pie”. a really really aggravating guy gets a 23 page letter from his wife (with whom he is living!) announcing that she’s going to leave him. He keeps claiming that the letter is not in her handwriting. 7. “Errand”. The death of Chekhov. If you haven't read Raymond Carver you should give him a go. This is a great place to start. Five stars only because they don't allow me a sixth.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katia N

    Wonderful little collection of seven stories. And I would not want to be more of them there: each stands out, each unique... The beauty and the sadness of the moment, all characters are so alive and so fallible... Reading it reminded me Hopper's paintings. Once, it was an exhibition here in London. I went there and was just sitting in the middle of the hall for a long time looking, unable to move or think... My favourite story from this collection is "The Intimacy". Wonderful little collection of seven stories. And I would not want to be more of them there: each stands out, each unique... The beauty and the sadness of the moment, all characters are so alive and so fallible... Reading it reminded me Hopper's paintings. Once, it was an exhibition here in London. I went there and was just sitting in the middle of the hall for a long time looking, unable to move or think... My favourite story from this collection is "The Intimacy".

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alice (Married To Books)

    I had to read this short story collection for University! All seven short stories have a main theme of death to them and the overall tone was dark and depressing. I really struggled to connect with the characters. It wasn't an enjoyable read, I didn't like some of the events that took place and found Errand in particular to be quite strange. I won't be re-reading! I had to read this short story collection for University! All seven short stories have a main theme of death to them and the overall tone was dark and depressing. I really struggled to connect with the characters. It wasn't an enjoyable read, I didn't like some of the events that took place and found Errand in particular to be quite strange. I won't be re-reading!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mat C Sharp

    I woke up with a migraine today. It's nothing, I'm used to it. I've been getting them every month since I became a mother. My body's way of reminding me that I'm not going to sleep careless like a baby any more. I asked my daughter, honey, could you please fetch me Elephant from the shelf? I wanna take a pic with it. Yes, the one with the ordinary cover... This seemingly uninteresting event gets to become significant in the hands of Raymond Carver. Point made, this review could end right here. Car I woke up with a migraine today. It's nothing, I'm used to it. I've been getting them every month since I became a mother. My body's way of reminding me that I'm not going to sleep careless like a baby any more. I asked my daughter, honey, could you please fetch me Elephant from the shelf? I wanna take a pic with it. Yes, the one with the ordinary cover... This seemingly uninteresting event gets to become significant in the hands of Raymond Carver. Point made, this review could end right here. Carver is inspired by the people next door and makes literature after their routine. You shouldn't seek for action in his stories, but the emotion is going to find you anyway. Why read it? Because he seizes the moment, because he grasps the extraordinary within the ordinary, because he makes art out of life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Carver again showcases his brilliant ability at writing short-fiction, where he goes about examining ordinary folk living ordinary lives and facing everyday problems. These are not short-stories as such, but more like snapshots without a beginning or an end. Sometimes regarded as the American Chekhov (he even writes about him) Carver has the knack of drawing in the reader in the shortest amount of time possible, and for the most part, he never fails. I think he is at his best when stripping away Carver again showcases his brilliant ability at writing short-fiction, where he goes about examining ordinary folk living ordinary lives and facing everyday problems. These are not short-stories as such, but more like snapshots without a beginning or an end. Sometimes regarded as the American Chekhov (he even writes about him) Carver has the knack of drawing in the reader in the shortest amount of time possible, and for the most part, he never fails. I think he is at his best when stripping away any gloss, and writing from the heart about the lonely, about love, and about failed relationships. Of the seven pieces on offer here, four I found to be really good. I particularly liked 'Intimacy' and 'Blackbird Pie'. On the whole, these weren't as good as previous collections, but compared to a lot of other writers of short-fiction he hits the spot superbly well.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Reading Carver is a kind of literary voyeurism, a feeling similar to walking down the street at night and peering into the lit windows of family homes; only you don't just see into their living rooms, you see into their heads and hearts, their innermost lives as well. You know what you're going to get from a Raymond Carver book, but while all his stories are essentially of a certain type, each one seems entirely fresh and new, just because of the slightest change in character and setting. They a Reading Carver is a kind of literary voyeurism, a feeling similar to walking down the street at night and peering into the lit windows of family homes; only you don't just see into their living rooms, you see into their heads and hearts, their innermost lives as well. You know what you're going to get from a Raymond Carver book, but while all his stories are essentially of a certain type, each one seems entirely fresh and new, just because of the slightest change in character and setting. They are different and yet somehow the same, just like our own life stories; this is what makes his writing so wonderful, and "Elephant" is my personal favourite of all his books...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    This isn't a collection to read for happy endings. Most of the stories in Elephant feature a middle aged man, often a recovering alcoholic, trapped in American blue-collar suburbia. The characters deal with estranged family, money problems, separation, loneliness, health issues, and death. There is never consolation. No one find solace in relationships, religion, personal talents, friendship, or outside interests. In “Boxes" a man deals with an aging mother who is an irritable complainer. She con This isn't a collection to read for happy endings. Most of the stories in Elephant feature a middle aged man, often a recovering alcoholic, trapped in American blue-collar suburbia. The characters deal with estranged family, money problems, separation, loneliness, health issues, and death. There is never consolation. No one find solace in relationships, religion, personal talents, friendship, or outside interests. In “Boxes" a man deals with an aging mother who is an irritable complainer. She constantly moves, hopeful she will find happiness in the next apartment or town. In "Whoever was using this bed", a couple wake in the middle of the night after a caller phones their house. Although it was a wrong number, the couple stay awake and discuss the inevitability of health trouble and death. “Intimacy” is about a man who revisits his ex-wife, asking for forgiveness. He never quite explains why he shows up at her house. It’s almost as though he just stopped by to see what might happen since he was already driving through town. In “Menudo”, an adulterer has to decide between his wife and the woman across the street. He reflects back on his first marriage while contemplating his current situation. “Elephant” is a story about a middle aged man who is being financially drowned by his family. His mother, ex-wife, daughter, son, and brother constantly ask him for money. He wants to say no, but he can’t. Instead he borrows money from the bank so he can keep sending checks. In “Blackbird Pie” a woman leaves her husband. She writes him a letter which he swears is not in her handwriting. The last story, “Errand", which won an O. Henry short story award in 1988, is entirely different. It’s about the last days of Anton Chekhov’s life, and shows Chekhov denying his oncoming death despite exhibiting all the signs of advanced tuberculosis. The power of Raymond Carver is in the way he explores problems that inevitably touch all of us, the darker elements of everyday existence. Reading "Elephant" brings to mind the Franz Kafka quote, "I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? … A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rowena

    I thought I'd already read all of Raymond Carver's short stories. I've read Shortcuts a number of times and the great big volume of stories Where I'm calling from. I thought I knew every Carver moment there was to know. But then I stumbled across a couple of collections in Readings recently and had to read both. The thing about Carver is it's not exactly the stories we remember but the moments - like the man whose wife has just found out he's having an affair, he hasn't slept all night, and in t I thought I'd already read all of Raymond Carver's short stories. I've read Shortcuts a number of times and the great big volume of stories Where I'm calling from. I thought I knew every Carver moment there was to know. But then I stumbled across a couple of collections in Readings recently and had to read both. The thing about Carver is it's not exactly the stories we remember but the moments - like the man whose wife has just found out he's having an affair, he hasn't slept all night, and in the morning all he can do is rake the neighbour's lawn ... or the husband who doesn't believe it's his wife's handwriting in her goodbye note, and as she's leaving, suitcase in her hand, there's two horses in the front yard. This is real life, made up of moments, not life changing events. The Elephant collection has already been added to my to be read again pile ... and again ... and again ...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Curran

    It's strange, the things that get written on the back covers of books. The blurb on the Vintage Classics edition of 'Elephant' has it that 'Errand' is one of Raymond Carver's longest stories. It's not even the longest in this collection. In fact, it's the second shortest. And none of the stories are long. So the suggestion that Carver was 'flexing his muscles for a longer work' is nonsense. I also dislike the insinuation that 'longer' might mean 'better'. Forgive the cliché, but these brief piece It's strange, the things that get written on the back covers of books. The blurb on the Vintage Classics edition of 'Elephant' has it that 'Errand' is one of Raymond Carver's longest stories. It's not even the longest in this collection. In fact, it's the second shortest. And none of the stories are long. So the suggestion that Carver was 'flexing his muscles for a longer work' is nonsense. I also dislike the insinuation that 'longer' might mean 'better'. Forgive the cliché, but these brief pieces convey a far greater sense of character and location than many novels twenty times their size. Each is a swift masterpiece. As a set, I think it's the most moving work he ever produced. He really was the boss.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Carver does something to me. We had similar upbringings, came from similar sort of places; his stories feel like stories about people I've always known. These last stories of his have an emotional depth to them that, though present in his other work, is bold and displayed here. Carver does something to me. We had similar upbringings, came from similar sort of places; his stories feel like stories about people I've always known. These last stories of his have an emotional depth to them that, though present in his other work, is bold and displayed here.

  12. 5 out of 5

    sam

    The only thing bad about this book is the reader. The stories are short, clever and masterly formulated. I took some pleasure in them, and did find myself unexpectedly invested in the characters I would most likely forget in the next ten pages. It is just not what I enjoy reading, and I curse my university reading list everyday for it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Wally Flangers

    Published in 1988 by the great Raymond Carver, “Elephant and Other Stories” is a short story collection comprising of seven different stories. Every single one of these stories is a 4 to 5 star rating. I did read one story in this collection that I didn’t really like. Carver has a way with words that separates him from ninety-percent of the authors out there. His story telling is at another level. As with all my short story collection reviews, I rate each story individually and then calculate the Published in 1988 by the great Raymond Carver, “Elephant and Other Stories” is a short story collection comprising of seven different stories. Every single one of these stories is a 4 to 5 star rating. I did read one story in this collection that I didn’t really like. Carver has a way with words that separates him from ninety-percent of the authors out there. His story telling is at another level. As with all my short story collection reviews, I rate each story individually and then calculate the average rating as the total rating for the book. But, I warn you…. Some of the reviews of each individual story includes a brief synopsis, which may or may not include a SPOILER. I write my short story reviews this way for future reference to remind me of which ones are worth the time re-reading and which ones are not. Although I do not ruin a good story by announcing any significant spoiler….. If you happen to come across one, it will be in a story that I hated and never intend on reading again. But, you can avoid potentially stumbling across a spoiler by skipping to the very bottom of the review, where it says “FINAL VERDICT”. That is where my overall review for “Elephant and Other Stories” is listed. The stories within the collection include; BOXES – This story is about Jill and the stories narrator. They are a couple who move into a new house to start a life together after both experiencing failed marriages. However, the strain of their relationship is put to the test when the narrators whining and complaining mother follows the couple by relocating to their town from California to be closer to him. Since all this old hag does is nag, bitch, and point out the negatives in any given situation, Jill wants nothing to do with her and would have no issues with her being struck by lightning at the drop of a hat. Upon her arrival, the mother hates virtually everything about her new location, including the weather and her landlord, and immediately regrets her decision to relocate…. After six months of complaining, the mother decides to close shop and head back to California, realizing that her relationship with her son will never be the same again…. This was a really good story, but also kind of depressing…. You get a sense that the mother wasn’t always like the way she is now and although she doesn’t want to admit or face it, is unhappy with what her life has become and the decisions she’s made that helped form the mold of the person she has transitioned to in her senior years. Like any loving parent, she has a hard time watching her son leave the nest because it means her life is nearing its end. A phase which she may have to face alone if she doesn’t start changing her attitude. WHOEVER WAS USING THIS BED – Jack and his wife Iris get a phone call at 3:00am from a drunk chick who asks to speak to a dude named “Bud”…. Jack is pretty insistent that nobody by that name lives at his residence and hangs up. Typical drunk female, she refuses to believe Jack and keeps calling him back (“Anybody want a peanut?”)…. Finally, Jack gets irritated enough to just take the phone of the hook so he can go back to bed an get some sleep so he’s not a zombie at work in the morning. However, the annoying interruption left him and his wife too amped up to just go right back to sleep so they start smoking cigarettes (talk about a nicotine addiction) and chatting about the dreams they were having before the phone call. The conversation eventually leads to a discussion involving death, leaving them both asking an important question to one another…. “If I were to become a vegetable, would you pull the plug?”. This was another good story with some humor and irony at the end. If the story captured your undivided attention, the last line in the story will make you smirk. INTIMACY – This story is about a narrator, a well-known writer, who unexpectedly drops by his ex-wife’s house (sounds like a great idea, huh?)…. When she opens the door to find the man that ruined her life, she blasts him for nine straight pages – throwing every line in the book at him…. Right down to wishing she stabbed the dude with the knife she once pulled on him! The cause of their divorce and her current state of hysteria upon seeing his face in the flesh is unclear. Carver leaves that up to the reader…. But, I am picturing the dude had an affair on her with some smokin’ hot college chick and she was devasted and enraged when she found out. Of course, she also mentions some kind of a “tragedy” that took place as well, which REALLY opens the doors to interpretation. Nevertheless, it is evident that she has harbored a lot of pain the last ten years and finally gets to unleash the beast and open a can of “whip-ass” on the guy…. This was another story that had a very depressing ending. At least for me…. Some people, women especially, will cheer but I felt pity for both of them. I think because this type of scenario is very real and happens all the time. You could feel the tension between the couple and the hurt the ex-wife is still carrying, yet you also want her to forgive the narrator. You can’t help but feel sorry for the guy at one point (giving him the benefit of the doubt that we aren’t talking about rape, homicide, or pedophilia here). MENUDO – This story is narrated by a cheating pick who has been porking his neighbor, Amanda, behind his wife’s back with plans to end his marriage and live a long fruit-full life with this cheating bitch across the street. Amanda is also married and has revealed to her husband that she is a cheating slut as well, but did not name names (too bad)…. Caught off guard and pissed off, her husband takes off for a few days. Amanda is stuck all alone in their house contemplating whether to jump ship and live happily ever after with the cheating prick neighbor or beg her husband to forgive her and proceed as a married, cheating slut…. As someone who has experienced infidelity, I spent most of this story wanting the narrator to get hit by a car or axed in the skull by his wife. It didn’t happen of course because Carver is not as sadistic as I am, but I can end an ambiguous story any way I see fit. ELEPHANT – This was the toughest story to read in the collection…. It’s about a successful guy with blood sucking relatives who are failures in life and desperately need money to stay afloat, so they go to him for a loan. The problem is, one loan leads to another which leads to another and the narrator is being dragged through the swamp with them because he’s running out of money himself because of all he is dishing out. But, the narrator is a glutton for punishment and just can’t say, “No” to family…. That makes him both, a loyal family member…. and a stupid person (very common). By the end of the story, not only do you want all of his family members to be hung at the Gallows, but you also would like to slap this guy around for being a brain-dead idiot. The story does have a moment of irony at the end, which I found comical, and the narrator has come to accept his situation and almost embraces it. A fast car is also used metaphorically and leaves a smile on your face with the final line. BLACKBIRD PIE – This sad story is about a marriage that has dropped in the toilet and in the process of getting flushed down the drain…. The story opens up when a woman presents her husband a massive hand written letter, which she slides underneath the door of his bedroom…. The letter, which is only skimmed over by the husband, reveals that she’s reached her limit and is leaving his ass. What led her to this decision is not too specific, but you get a sense that she has been through a lot of neglect and experienced some mental suffering as a result (Stick a fork in him. He’s done)…. As she is walking out the door and out of his life forever, he is left bewildered and wondering how he is ever going to move on without her. Although the story doesn’t paint a good picture about the type of person the husband is, you cant help but sympathize with his stubborn ass as well. In any regard, it was another depressing story which someone who has experienced divorce will especially appreciate. ERRAND – This story is about the death of famous Russian writer, Anton Chekhov and the days leading up to his death. It is the type of story that wrapped up the collection well, but I would never guess that it was written by Raymond Carver if I didn’t already know it. It’s hard to pin-point exactly what I mean by that, but the writing seems different in some parts. Fun fact: The author was called “The American Chekhov” in the 20th century. FINAL VERDICT: I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. There are some very depressing stories in “Elephant and Other Stories” that are eminently true to life and happen every day. From a lonely mother coping with detachment to a failed marriage and harbored feelings of resentment…. I think that’s what makes this collection so moving. Carver was an amazing writer of drama. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of short stories that stem from life’s hard realities.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Benja

    Raymond Carver's final short story collection, published shortly after his death, was composed over a period of 5 years. Yet to my mind this is the work of a dying man. There is a sense of vertigo and impending doom in every story - whether they're haunted by feelings of guilt, resentment or a mix of both, Carver's characters are panicky, uneasy and on the verge of something dreadful. Regret and mortality are recurring themes. In "Boxes", a man bids farewell to his overbearing mother. In "Whoever Raymond Carver's final short story collection, published shortly after his death, was composed over a period of 5 years. Yet to my mind this is the work of a dying man. There is a sense of vertigo and impending doom in every story - whether they're haunted by feelings of guilt, resentment or a mix of both, Carver's characters are panicky, uneasy and on the verge of something dreadful. Regret and mortality are recurring themes. In "Boxes", a man bids farewell to his overbearing mother. In "Whoever Was Using This Bed", a married couple spend the night discussing euthanasia. A man subjects himself to the tirade of his angry ex wife in "Intimacy", as if cleansing himself of the past. The protagonist of "Menudo" stands by a window reflecting on the three big women in his life - his ex, his wife and his lover. In "Elephant" the narrator recounts his many grievances with his insufferable family. In "Blackbird Pie" a man receives a breakup letter from his own wife, then watches as she leaves him moments later in the dead of night. Finally there's "Errand", which imagines the final days in the life of Anton Chekhov - a writer whom Carver greatly admired - before his sudden, untimely death. Something about "Errand" feels unfinished, but it contains my favorite line in the collection, about Chekhov's doctor: "He picked up his bag and left the room and, for that matter, history". My favorite stories are "Elephant" and "Blackbird Pie". The first one feels like the most intimate of the collection and it might as well be an extract from Carver's diary, venting out his frustrations and mixed feelings towards the family of overbearing losers that are sinking him with them. Yet the ending, in which the protagonist dreams of his deceased 'elephant' of a father - paternal figures are noticeably absent from stories otherwise riddled with demanding mothers and deranged exes -, ends on a note of optimism more in line with Carver's earlier Cathedral. "Blackbird Pie" is a borderline surrealistic story that perfectly captures the sense of impotence and disbelief in a sudden breakup. A student of history, the narrator cannot begin to understand a person whose actions don't seem to find any justification in the past. Everything from the horror atmosphere breeding within the quiet house to the absurd yet threatening appearence of cowboys suggests a nightmare, something out of a David Lynch movie. Here the theme is the failure to understand our loved ones, and the desperation therein - something that crops up frequently as Carver's characters suffer the changes of their significant others without themselves experiencing any change or indeed noticing them until they're too late. With every collection I read I become more convinced that Raymond Carver was a master of the narrative short form. How simply and effectively he suckers readers into a situation that is immediate, intense and so intimate is amazing, and always a pleasure to read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Angus Stirling

    Gosh, I just read Raymond Carver’s final two short stories, and have to write about them. They both deal with Carver’s recurring subject of departing or departed lovers, as well as new a preoccupation with the moment in which a person exits history. In Blackbird Pie, a man who has an exceptional mind for the dates and facts of historic events notices an envelope slide under his study door. It’s from his wife, and in it is a letter from her but seemingly written in a stranger’s hand, explaining w Gosh, I just read Raymond Carver’s final two short stories, and have to write about them. They both deal with Carver’s recurring subject of departing or departed lovers, as well as new a preoccupation with the moment in which a person exits history. In Blackbird Pie, a man who has an exceptional mind for the dates and facts of historic events notices an envelope slide under his study door. It’s from his wife, and in it is a letter from her but seemingly written in a stranger’s hand, explaining why she’s leaving. The man loses the letter before he finishes reading it and is left to never understand why she’s gone. And in the moment that she leaves, he becomes outside of her history, and perhaps outside of History itself. ‘To take a wife is to take a history. And if that’s so, then I understand that I am outside of history now… or you could say that history has left me. Or that I’m having to go on without history.’ And with that it dawns on the man that autobiography is the poor man’s history, and the narrative terminates. Following the theme of autobiography being a poor man’s history, and presciently so, as Carver was dying on lung cancer at this point and unaware of the fact, Carver’s final story focuses on the death of Chekhov from tuberculosis. Chekhov’s wife watches on as he dies, a doctor steps into the room, and, impotent to do anything else, calls for a final bottle of champagne for the three to share. Chekhov dies, the doctor steps out of the room and out of History. A bellboy enters, leans down, and picks up the champagne cork, and with that minor concrete detail the narrative is over, Chekhov’s life is over, and Carver’s career is over, appropriately ended by a mundane action from a secondary character.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alastair

    Raymond Carver got the short story. We meet his characters as ordinary people in mundane moments and - over the course of just a few pages, via the tiniest stray thoughts and actions - come to know them intimately. More often than not, that mundane moment is a life-changing milestone in disguise. My favourite story is the second, "Whoever was Using this Bed". A husband and wife deal with the everyday, all-too-familiar frustrations of being woken at 4am. Him wanting to sleep; her wanting to talk; Raymond Carver got the short story. We meet his characters as ordinary people in mundane moments and - over the course of just a few pages, via the tiniest stray thoughts and actions - come to know them intimately. More often than not, that mundane moment is a life-changing milestone in disguise. My favourite story is the second, "Whoever was Using this Bed". A husband and wife deal with the everyday, all-too-familiar frustrations of being woken at 4am. Him wanting to sleep; her wanting to talk; neither fully awake; the clock moving rapidly towards sunrise. And somehow in the process, they manage to hold one of the most important conversations of their lives. It has the line-by-line economy of the smartest of stage plays. (I'm only just learning that this brilliantly cold, sparse style may have been more due to his editor's ruthlessness. Let's call it a reluctant team effort. It works.) Carver obviously wrote what he knew. His world was one of ex-wives, past alcoholism and strangely reserved relationships with new partners - baggage practically all of his characters inherit. Most stories succeed, some fall a little flat, and the final piece is something else entirely. "Errand" begins as a complete change of form: a well-researched account of Anton Chekhov's death. Sneakily and almost undetectably, it changes tone from fact back to fiction, fixating once again on the essential tiny details, and holding out until the final two memorable pages to settle on a protagonist. This was a great impulse buy, and an excellent introduction to Carver's work. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matt Butler

    I hadn't heard of Raymond Carver before, in fact I only picked up this book because it was short (and Tab had bought it for a course). I loved it! I discovered dirty realism is a name for this style, and the style I have really enjoyed in several other books I have read. Many of the quotes I picked out are very simple but feel very powerful at the same time, and this seems characteristic of this style (which is why I love it). I liked how there were strong connections between the different stori I hadn't heard of Raymond Carver before, in fact I only picked up this book because it was short (and Tab had bought it for a course). I loved it! I discovered dirty realism is a name for this style, and the style I have really enjoyed in several other books I have read. Many of the quotes I picked out are very simple but feel very powerful at the same time, and this seems characteristic of this style (which is why I love it). I liked how there were strong connections between the different stories. It felt like there were many snapshots of the same character (apart from the last story on Russia). Whoever was using this bed: I loved how one image changed the narrator's idea of his bed. This is something I really feel. Our ideas of things and concepts are often associated with specific images and this was the perfect description of this. "I know I won't ever look at this bed again without remembering it like this." Intimacy: Awesome line "All my rotten eggs in one basket." Elephant: I loved the build of all the competing demands on the narrator. It felt oppressive and difficult and just built up so well. I don't really have any specific quotes but just loved the relentless struggle of it all. Laughter can also be sad. "Now, thinking about their laughter, I had to laugh too. Ha, ha, ha. That was exactly the sound I made there at the table - ha, ha, ha - as if I'd read somewhere how to laugh." Look forward to reading more Carver!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Although not stories I would typically read (this is part of my university reading list) I found them all an exhilarating read. They are harrowingly raw, they draw you in immediately and, in only a few pages, create characters with such deep humanity it feels as if you actually know them. Carver's characters experience things everybody is aware of (addiction, misunderstanding, selfishness, adultery, death) and, regardless of whether you have actually experienced these things or not, you still fe Although not stories I would typically read (this is part of my university reading list) I found them all an exhilarating read. They are harrowingly raw, they draw you in immediately and, in only a few pages, create characters with such deep humanity it feels as if you actually know them. Carver's characters experience things everybody is aware of (addiction, misunderstanding, selfishness, adultery, death) and, regardless of whether you have actually experienced these things or not, you still feel as though you can relate to these people, making them all the more powerful. They're all also so similar whilst being entirely dissimilar: the characters are new and the situations are new, but they follow on with a subtlety that reinforces Carver's talent. This collection is ugly but beautiful, it's the taboo side to domestic life which is all so interesting that you can't help but love it, and Carver's intensely emotive, yet sparing, writing style marks this as a truly wonderful set of works.

  19. 5 out of 5

    James Le

    There are only a little more than 100 pages, but it took me quite a while to finish this book. Everytime I finish a story, I can't seem to move on to the next one. Don't get me wrong, his prose is simple, every word is precise. But his sentences holds in them multitude of expression, trails of clues make me follow with patient anticipation.There is always something unmistakably modern and American in his short, there isn't any exception in this collection. Elephants and other stories like most o There are only a little more than 100 pages, but it took me quite a while to finish this book. Everytime I finish a story, I can't seem to move on to the next one. Don't get me wrong, his prose is simple, every word is precise. But his sentences holds in them multitude of expression, trails of clues make me follow with patient anticipation.There is always something unmistakably modern and American in his short, there isn't any exception in this collection. Elephants and other stories like most of his shorts portrait ordinary life of small-town men and woman and their relationship, seemingly when they ran out of luck. Reading these stories makes me imagining living the 80s in one of those suburban house; screaming at my first husband for betrayal, discussing immorality with my wife at 3 am, dreaming about raiding an elephant.I was aware about his minimalism style (although he rejected the term himself),but to read his word-perfect stories is always such a pleasure.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rhys

    I am a recent convert to the work of Raymond Carver. AT first I didn't like it at all, but gradually he won me over. I still don't regard him as one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th Century (as many seem to) but he certainly was the real thing; his work is important and distinctive and he proves that in the right hands (but so few writers have such hands) 'less' can indeed mean 'more'. This is the second collection of his stories I have read and on the whole I enjoyed this book eve I am a recent convert to the work of Raymond Carver. AT first I didn't like it at all, but gradually he won me over. I still don't regard him as one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th Century (as many seem to) but he certainly was the real thing; his work is important and distinctive and he proves that in the right hands (but so few writers have such hands) 'less' can indeed mean 'more'. This is the second collection of his stories I have read and on the whole I enjoyed this book even more than Waht We Talk About When We Talk About Love... I especially liked the title story. In fact I enjoyed six of the seven stories. The only one that seemed a bit weak was the final one, 'Errand', about the death of Chekhov, which was quite different in style, substance and purpose from Carver's usual tales and suffers because of it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark Broadhead

    I'd forgotten I'd read these. It had been a good 25 years or so. They are so raw. I feel a little like when I read Thomas Hardy reading these .... Both their realities are without humour. Sure there is some humour in the telling. But the worlds are full of people who never laugh. They suffer. It's like Hardy had to avoid being Dickens so much that there could be no humour in his novels. Not one smirk. Carver is the same. Amazing stories, nonetheless. (Avoid reading them on your birthday, as I di I'd forgotten I'd read these. It had been a good 25 years or so. They are so raw. I feel a little like when I read Thomas Hardy reading these .... Both their realities are without humour. Sure there is some humour in the telling. But the worlds are full of people who never laugh. They suffer. It's like Hardy had to avoid being Dickens so much that there could be no humour in his novels. Not one smirk. Carver is the same. Amazing stories, nonetheless. (Avoid reading them on your birthday, as I did.)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mathieu

    Probably my favourite collection of short stories. Elephant, Menudo, Whoever Was Using This Bed just blew me away. And Errand was such an unexpected and delightful way to end the collection. Highly recommend it

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shishir Chaudhary

    How I loved and cherished reading this book. Raymond Carver writes about men, aging men with moral conflicts in these seven short stories, starting with a man who is sorry he is angry with his mother moving places and ending with the death of Anton Chekhov, who while dying, thinks of it as his duty to appear healthy to his well-wishers. The language is fluid and grabs you from the get-go. I read somewhere that a short story need not have a complete plot but should make a point; this holds perfec How I loved and cherished reading this book. Raymond Carver writes about men, aging men with moral conflicts in these seven short stories, starting with a man who is sorry he is angry with his mother moving places and ending with the death of Anton Chekhov, who while dying, thinks of it as his duty to appear healthy to his well-wishers. The language is fluid and grabs you from the get-go. I read somewhere that a short story need not have a complete plot but should make a point; this holds perfectly true for all the stories presented here. You will not find a clear beginning and end to the narratives, instead you will be pushed into a slice of an ongoing plot and pulled out of it suddenly. But the time you would spend in between are worth remembering. This book is only 124 pages long but I took more time than expected to finish it because I savored the easy-going, comfort, and powerful writing, slowly. Raymond Carver is a genius and I shall read more of his works. Highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sadia

    All these stories left me wanting. I guess that's what makes them so brilliant- they're half finished and undone like real life. I didn't feel clever enough to put together an analysis of what the themes meant, so... happy to leave this unrated. All these stories left me wanting. I guess that's what makes them so brilliant- they're half finished and undone like real life. I didn't feel clever enough to put together an analysis of what the themes meant, so... happy to leave this unrated.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Judith Johnson

    Great art this may be and obviously the author is much revered, but, three stories in, just a tad too grim for me at this unhappy Covid time. Postponing until I’m way too happy and need something sombre!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    When someone asks me who my favourite writer is, how can I say anything but Carver? Carver, Carver, a hundred times.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Realini

    Menudo by Raymond Carver Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at: - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... Like the previous two narratives that I have read recently, Rope and Intimacy, Menudo is about marital issues. The hero, who is also the one telling the story is married to Vicky. Across the street live Amanda and Oliver. Our hero has an affair with Amanda and it is at the point of affecting all those concerned. Oliver has given his wife an ultimatum. She needs Menudo by Raymond Carver Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at: - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... Like the previous two narratives that I have read recently, Rope and Intimacy, Menudo is about marital issues. The hero, who is also the one telling the story is married to Vicky. Across the street live Amanda and Oliver. Our hero has an affair with Amanda and it is at the point of affecting all those concerned. Oliver has given his wife an ultimatum. She needs to move within one week. Faced with this crisis, the narrator starts recollecting events from his past... His father and the way he woke up from a coma only to say hello son and then die. Molly is the hero's former wife and the reader learns about her. Once upon a time, they loved each other. When her spouse started seeing Vicky, Molly had a breakdown. She went to palm readers, wore strange clothes. Finally she joined a group of people that tried to levitate. And then she was committed. The story teller is right in thinking, in the present: - Molly is somebody else now - I am someone else now Which reminds me of Proust, who made this point splendidly...as we grow, we have very little, if anything in common with the younger self who was in love with one or another girl, or man. To complicate this psychoanalysis, the mother of the hero enters his thoughts, to join Molly, Amanda and Vicky. The mother died in someone's bushes and we have the list of what was in her purse... With butter milk, groceries and ...dentures. Not sure how to cope with this anxiety and stress disorder, the narrator starts raking the dead leaves. There are some tragicomic moments... When Molly talks about the way she can know the thoughts that are "beamed" And then about the karma... Merged review: Elephant by Raymond Carver Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at: - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... I empathize with the hero of this account. He is in deep financial trouble. In fact, it is his family that is hopeless and leans heavily on this man. The first to appeal to the hero’s mercy is the brother. He needs five hundred dollars or else he will be evacuated and finished. So the kind relative gives him the money. It is nevertheless on condition that he will repay the mother. Because this main character has his mother to take care of as well. So the arrangement involves the brother sending the money back to their parent, and this is a way of pressing the issue. Or so the hero hopes. But in vain. For the brother does not return the loan, directly or in any other way. There is a controversy over the amount he sent to their mother, but it is in no way what he has asked for…maybe one hundred out of the original five. To add the cherry on top, or insult to injury, he asks for a larger amount after some time has passed and he is still without means. He wants one thousand dollars now, but claims to have a job lined up and a property to sell that belongs to his wife. In other words, in two months he will be good for part of the money and he will return it all, no question about it. In fact, I was somewhat frustrated to see the hero fall again in the trap, even if at times I have more in common with the helpless brother. After all, my sister from America has been sending gifts and money for a long time and helped me with her support. True, on the other hand there are others- spouse, the big number of pets she has imposed- that require my continual spending. But at least I make the constant effort to ask them to restrict their waste and keep within the budget, as suggested by Charles Dickens: - "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." Apart from the brother and the mother, our narrator has to cover for his daughter and son, who do not live with him. The daughter is married to a man who makes no effort to provide for his family, not interested in getting a job and very likely in anything. At one point, the daughter calls because she is left with no furniture and she needs- yet again- her father to step in. - I need some basic furniture…I feel raped! And the son went on to study in New Hampshire- or was it Jersey? - In an unexpected place, but with everyone’s approval.\ After all, he was the first in the family to even consider further education, never mind actually making the effort. Only the way he is presented makes me feel he is somewhat self-indulgent, pretentious and inconsiderate. He asks for money to go to Europe because he cannot stand to remain in the United States, where he disapproves of mentalities and more. And the poor hero has to provide for all these dependents.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shameema

    So much has been said about Raymond Carver and his craft, someone who is frequently and rightfully mentioned as one of the best short stoeywriters of the twentieth century; little more can be added. How can one not revel in the intricate observations and minute sensitivities of these stories? So detailed and yet never burdensome, the prose smooth as a still lake on a summer afternoon, the people truer than you and I. Something to return to again and again.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Math Gorman

    Carver is one of my favorite writers. He always managed to transform something mundane into something beautiful and meaningful. These stories are no different. In this collection, the stories are longer, more ambitious and original. The first story is the most typical about a man trapped between the tensions between his wife and his mother. The last is the most ambitious in my ambition about the writer Chekov. All in all it is a great collection but if you are new to Carver you should start with Carver is one of my favorite writers. He always managed to transform something mundane into something beautiful and meaningful. These stories are no different. In this collection, the stories are longer, more ambitious and original. The first story is the most typical about a man trapped between the tensions between his wife and his mother. The last is the most ambitious in my ambition about the writer Chekov. All in all it is a great collection but if you are new to Carver you should start with his first three collections which are easily some of the best short stories ever published.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Flavia

    Elephant is my second encounter with Carver and as I finished the first story 'Boxes', it brings back all my feelings toward this man whose writings resonate deep within me. It reminded me yet again about why I love his writings in the first place. To be frank, I cannot really tell what is it I love about his writings. It's probably how his writings seem to revolve around real problems and real people. It does not end in a way that is fictional. It is realistically real. He hints on one or two t Elephant is my second encounter with Carver and as I finished the first story 'Boxes', it brings back all my feelings toward this man whose writings resonate deep within me. It reminded me yet again about why I love his writings in the first place. To be frank, I cannot really tell what is it I love about his writings. It's probably how his writings seem to revolve around real problems and real people. It does not end in a way that is fictional. It is realistically real. He hints on one or two things in one story for you to interpret. He explains what a character is going through without seemingly describing it. Same with how he ends a story that seems to hint too many things, again, it is up to your interpretation. The theme of this book seems to resolve around men characters; who are troubled and yet there is an unseeingly connections between each characters to a woman character. It's almost as if the women characters either made them or break them (mostly break). Another thing that seems to be the theme here is marriage and the dark, downside of it. Again, to me this book unrevealed so many realistic life and marriage problems (dirty realism indeed). And I feel like you can never really rate a Carver book. It's either you're going to despise them or love them to death, as it is a masterpiece that gets better over time, the more you read it. Elephant and Other StoriesRaymond Carver

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