Tuesday, July 20, 2010

From the Heath Arsenal: Joyce Carol Oates and Raymond Carver.

"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates.

This is the sort of thing my dad would have probably wanted me to read. His analysis of the story would have been this: A girl puts a sign on her back and then is surprised when some dirty old man comes after her. I have been in this girl's place, many times. It's like I never really believed (at age sixteen) that anyone could ever really want to be with me, that anyone would actually step up to the plate, and when surprise, someone not only steps up but "goes for the gold?" Didn't think this through very well, did I? Not an easy situation, nor a smart one. Girls can be very foolish, I know I was.

 The story deals with budding sexuality in a girl named Connie, and how it sort of goes a bit. . . wrongly. And she does put a sign on her back, that oh-so-coyly-insinuated "I WANT SEX" sign, definitely, but come to think of it, we all did. This is how it goes. Thank God most of us are lucky enough to avoid Leonard Friend, but some of us aren't. When I was reading this, things were fine for most of it, kids doing what kids do, flirting, lying, screwing around, etc., and then Leonard Friend pulls up and is revealed to be what, like thirty years old? I got the chatters. Very well done, this was. Should I make my girls read it when they turn twelve?

"Cathedral" and "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" by Raymond Carver

I liked both of these. "Cathedral" = a blind man teaches a lonely, boring, stoner to "see"; " What We Talk About. . . Love" = two couples trade stories and swig gin and tonics around a table and their inner hostilities emerge. The intro in the Heath text had a lot about Raymond Carver's style, his being a controversial figure, how the writing community was either "with Carver" or against him, I guess this confused me a little. I mean, I thought the writing was direct and honest, but not deadpan, as described. Then again, I love me some Hemingway and metaphors mostly bother me, so I'm not the best judge.

"We didn't say anything for a time. He was leaning forward with his head turned at me, his right ear aimed in the direction of the set. Very disconcerting. Now and then his eyelids drooped and then they snapped open again. Now and then he put his fingers into his beard and tugged, like he was thinking about something he was hearing on the television."

or

"Terri said the man she lived with before she lived with Mel loved her so much he tried to kill her. Then Terri said, 'He beat me up one night. He dragged me around the living room by my ankles. He kept saying, 'I love you, I love you, you bitch.' He went on dragging me around the living room. My head kept knocking on things.' Terri looked around the table. 'What do you do with love like that?'"

I think it works fine. I guess that makes me "with Carver."


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