What We Talk When We Talk About Love?

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Literary Annotated Bibliography – “What We Talk When We Talk About Love”

Campbell, Ewing. "Breakthrough: 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,'." Raymond Carver: A Study of the Short Fiction. (1992): 45-47. Rpt. in Short Stories for Students, Vol. 12. Literature Resource Center. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. Ewing Campbell discusses his thoughts on what can be taken from a story where “nothing happens”, something he says readers have often complained about with Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Campbell does a good job of summarizing the story as he talks about the several varieties of emotion, existing under the single rubric of love, that enter into the conversation either in passing or at length—“spiritual love, carnal love, chivalric love, idealized devotion, and even the sort of complex torment that exhibits itself in abuse, often murder, and sometimes suicide.” He goes on to say that there is more to the story than just that though. He believes that “the little ironies and revelations of the story help to develop a complete narrative that a summary can never sufficiently provide.” Campbell thinks that these ironies and revelations are capable of revealing the inability of these characters to see themselves or each other honestly. He keeps most of his attention on Mel, someone he says “remains partly blind to the truths of love and self.” Campbell mentions how Mel idealizes the elderly couple’s love and that the conversation at the table never approaches the real thing. He believes “the reader can rightly infer that nothing he has ever felt as love could be favorably compared with what he found in the elderly man who was depressed because he couldn’t see his wife.” He then ends his essay with, “Carver dramatically juxtaposes varieties of experience that, when seen together, sharpen their lines of difference and no longer pass unquestioned for love.” In my opinion, this author took himself too seriously. He tries to break down the character of Mel in a way that seems like he’s over analyzing him. Instead of just taking the conversation as a drunken man talking as if he knows what love is, he talks about the “emotional immaturity” that Mel portrays with his thoughts and devotion of the elderly couple’s love. If Mel believes his view of the elderly couple is true love then who is this author to say that it’s an “emotional immaturity?” Especially, when Campbell also states that “the reader can rightly infer that nothing he has ever felt as love could be favorably compared with what he found in the elderly man who was depressed because he couldn’t see his wife.” It makes no sense for him to say Mel is emotionally immature, then turn it around and say that the reader can rightly infer that all of the loves Mel speaks about don’t even compare to the elderly couple’s love. I believe that out of all the loves Mel talks about, that is the one that should make him seem less immature emotionally. If he wanted to bring up the immaturity of Mel then he should’ve mentioned how he wanted to kill his ex- wife with bees or just his alcoholism in general. I think Campbell overlooks the fact that no one can express what true love is and anyone’s idea on what it is, is just as good as any other. Meyer, Adam. "The Middle Years: 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,' Raymond Carver. 1995. 86-87. Rpt. in Short Stories for Students, Vol. 12. Literature Resource Center. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. Adam Meyer presents an essay that describes Raymond Carver’s writing style and how “What We Talk When We Talk About Love” is Carver’s most exaggerated form of minimalism. Although Carver eventually reacted against this extremely pared-down-style, “this story continues to embody minimalism at its most distinctive” Meyer says. He describes how language is used so sparingly and the plots so minimal that the story at first seems to “have no life in them.” Meyer goes on to tell how the characters...
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