Elephant and other stories raymond carver

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elephant and other stories raymond carver

Elephant and Other Stories by Raymond Carver

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.’
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Published 04.12.2018

Cathedral Raymond Carver (Audiobook)

There are only a little more than pages, but it took me quite a while to finish this book.
Raymond Carver

ISBN 13: 9780002710404

These seven stories were the last that Carver wrote. This fine story suggests that the greatest of modern short-story writers may, in the year before his untimely death, have been flexing his muscles for a longer work…. In Boxes , a young man prepares to help his elderly mother move back to California and reflects on his parents odd habit of moving two or three times a year. In Elephant , a man is driven to the end of his tether by his family who are always taking money from him. He sends his mother a cheque every month because she guilt trips him about being alone and how nobody cares about her etc. He sends his ex-wife a cheque every month to pay for his children.

In Elephant by Raymond Carver we have the theme of acceptance, struggle, security, letting go and dependency. Taken from his Elephant and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story it would appear that Carver is exploring the theme of dependency. We also learn that he is supporting his mother, sending her money every month, his ex-wife alimony payments and his two children. What we also know as readers is that the narrator lives alone, spending much of his time sitting in his chair at home too tired after work to do anything. It is as if he is living his life, just to help his family.

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principles and power of vision

Elephant and Other Stories

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Suyai C. says:

    Page edges tanned and marked, some fading to cover.

  2. Prechnemevi says:

    Elephant is a collection of short stories by American writer Raymond Carver published in Great Britain,

  3. Viedobina says:

    Elephant and Other Stories by Carver, Raymond

  4. Pinabel L. says:

    Elephant and Other Stories book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. These seven stories were the last that Carver wrote. Am.

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