Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review: Where I'm Calling From

It's no mystery that every now and then I like to shake things up and read something that doesn't fall under the fantasy/sf/comic umbrella.  Well, I had one of those times recently, and in order to slake my thirst, I prescribed a healthy dose of short fiction by Raymond Carver, from the Where I'm Calling From collection.

This reading experience had a bit of a supernova-like feel to it.  It started out hot, tapered off quickly, and left me feeling cold by the end.  The reason is that Carver seems to like to work in one or more of a few particular themes into nearly every single short story.  Those themes are: drug/alcohol abuse, spouse abuse, failed love, and fractured/failed humans.  

These themes can be incredibly interesting and powerful when written well, and Carver does write very well.  The problem is that it was too much of the same stuff over and over for thirty seven stories, and it eventually began to wear away at my soul.  Though I enjoyed many of the stories in the early going, by the end I felt like I was just plowing through the rest of the collection, just for the sake of completion.

This reading experience was by no means a total bust though, because Carver is one hell of a writer, and it was nice to experience such a high level of skill.  Carver has a minimalist writing style, and he has pretty much mastered the short form. His passages are short and terse, with very few descriptors, but somehow he manages to write incredibly vivid stories.  Though I got sick of him covering the same themes over and over again, I don't think I'd ever get tired of reading his stories about fishing.

I think that if I read Carver in smaller doses, I'd have an easier time digesting his intense themes.  He truly is a fantastic writer, and his stories can be incredibly captivating.  I'm definitely glad I gave this a go.

Grade: B-

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