I still remember the time when I first read Italo Calvino, who once said ‘The contemporary world may be mediocre and foolish, but it is always a skeleton, only when we are in it, we can look ahead to the future and back into the past.’ This remark to classic is what Raymond Carver to me. For me, the world of minimalism seems like an area of blank, which is difficult to unscramble and analyze. Fortunately, Carver has set up a line for me to help with my understanding, because after all, the reading of minimalism is of a period of solitary time when any imbalanced unscramble will make the novel farfetched. And Raymond Carver, as a representative personage of minimalism, masters the skills of the unreliable narrative technique and the open ending to perfection.
After reading the novel What We Talk about When We Talk about Love, my first feeling is that ‘When I talk about love, I talk about my own position’. Then this feeling shifts to ‘When I talk about love, I’m just communicating with myself, not others.’ It is from Carver’s detailed descriptions that I draw my two conclusions. Now that he has set the skeleton for us, why shouldn’t we cut from analyzing the character images of the four leading roles to find out what they are talking about?
I can begin with the narrator of this novel, Nick, who says that he know what love is. When a problem comes up to him, he prefers observation to comment. And for his wife Laura, moistened by love, thinks everyone should not comment others without understanding him well. Nick’s friend Mel is a successful doctor, and with the power of discourse, so he’s able to make points in many aspects. He remarks not only about what love should like, but also about the method to kill his ex-wife. Terri is Mel’s girlfriend, who is one of the group where see the difficulties they have faced as their experience.
Based on these analyses, I can divide the leading roles into three groups. The first group includes Nick and Laura. The second one consists of Mel and Terri. And the left group was made up by the old couple appeared in Mel’s story in which the old man cried because he couldn’t turn his head and see his wife.
The first group, which contains Nick and Laura, represents for a huge group of people in daily life. They are those who are talking without speaking, hearing without listening and never pursuit the meaning of life. They argue that they know what love is and are rest content with their shallow love. They neither aim to fully understand the reasons of the mysteries they come across in their lives nor find out the truth of life. They are the representative of the lightest part of life: We love for joy.
The second group is represented by Mel and Terri, who stand for successful ones. Their love between each other is a kind of Physical love. They are aware of the truth that they are short of carnal love and sentimental love though they cannot express their shortage definitely, so that the only thing they could do is wondering about what love definitely is.
The last group, the old couple, is the idealized form of love in Carver’s novel. Appearing on this occasion, it symbolizes the ultimate level of love, the carnal love. However, it is frustrating that in this novel, all the three groups are unable to understand others. From my perspective, this fact is the reason why we are keen on Carver’s novel and why we are controlled by it. When you travel across America, driving from the east coast to the west coast, from New York to Los Angeles, you are able to see so many people wondering in the street and cafes with hollow but somewhat pondering look on their face. They don’t know what they are seeking if you ask them. These are the facts that Raymond Carver has used during his whole life to account for: In the desolate daily life, all are struggling to hide the huge panic and loneliness in their soul whether they are succeed or failed.
Once I read a sentence in Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, it goes that:”…But I still believe, at the time God created human, he created a promised land of soul for everybody, where they can seek for the road of survival.” Wilde wrote De Profundis for his lover Bosie, but Carver writes for human being. The last sentence of this novel is a description of the environment:” the room went dark”, I think maybe at this time, the three groups’ promised land of soul overlapped for a while, though they could not understand others previously.
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