Tag: carver

Carver, “60 Acres” (1969)

raymond carver 60 acrs

“Not a Gentleman Farmer.” (Neil Moralee, 2017)

A Hemingwayesque story in style, theme and development, if with a more defined plot. Lee Waite, 32, owns 60 acres on a reservation. A neighbor tells him people are hunting illegally on it. Again. He loads his rifle and goes. He is as apprehensive as his scared prey, two young people, when he catches them. Both his brothers have been killed, one by stabbing, the other not clear how. It’s clear that violence runs in the family. It intrudes, as it often does in Carver stories, out of nowhere. His characters are aware of their vulnerability to it. Sometimes they control the violence. Sometimes they don’t. They’re all like Zola’s Maquarts. Waite wants to control it. Waite did not like it when his sons asked him, as he was loading the rifle, if he was going to kill the hunters this time. He lets the hunters go, taking their hunting prizes. “He had put them off the land. That was all that mattered. Yet he could not understand why he felt something crucial had happened, a failure.” Back home, with his wife, his ageing, glum mother, his two children, he talks about leasing the land so it can make some money and be off his back. His legs shake from under him as he thinks of the $1,000 he speculates he could get from leasing. It’s not clear whether they shake to the point of having him sit from anticipation of money or from giving away the land.

Discourse, Winter 1969

Carver, “Father” (1961)

A Hemingwayesque story of a page and a half devastating in the simplicity of its indictment of a mother’s possible faithlessness or the father’s disconnection from his family as the family gathers around her latest of four children, the firs boy. It’s the three sisters, the grandmother and the mother cooing around the crib until one of the girls says something about the nose: “It looks like somebody’s nose.” Not her mother’s. Not her father’s. Sister Phyllis immediately tries to divert the cooing to something else. Anything but “who the baby looks like.” Because “He doesn’t look like anybody,” she says, a realization she has trouble making sense of. Another girl says he looks like her daddy, but her daddy who looks like “nobody,” Phyllis says, crying briefly. All the while the father was at the kitchen table, his back to the scene. “He had turned around in his chair and his face was white and without expression.” Is the baby his? Is he just a blank?

Toyon, Spring 1961, Will You Please Be Quiet Please

Carver, “Are You a Doctor?” (1973)

The magnetism of an enigma. Arnold Breit, at home, gets a phone call from a woman, Clara Holt, who can’t explain why she is calling or how she got the number. The sitter may have written down the number. Arnold is bothered. His number is unlisted. He wants to hang up. She doesn’t let him. There’s nothing untoward about her insistence, but she is insistent. She keeps him on the line, asks him for his name, then his last name, gives him hers. He lights a cigar and stays on. Then she seems to end the conversation abruptly, soon after telling him they must meet. She later calls back. “I’m sorry we got cut off.” She calls again the next afternoon. She tells him it’s important they meet–at her home. He can’t help himself. He goes. When he shows up, a little girl improbably opens the door. Her mother is not there. She’s gone to the pharmacy to get some medicines. The girl invites Arnold in, having been told to do so. She tells him she’s not sick. Soon Clara is home with shopping bags, some medicine. “Are you a doctor?” she asks. He’s not. He tells her he must go. She insists, mirroring the non-seductive seduction of the phone conversation. He stays. She tells him she’d checked with the sitter about the number. Someone had called and left a number for Clara, and that’s the number the sitter wrote down. He must leave. He wants to leave. He gets up, she gets up, he takes her around the waist, clumsily, regretfully, and kisses her, as if it was expected, as if there was nothing else to do to ease an exit. He leaves. The phone is ringing when he gets home. He doesn’t pick it up. later when he doesn’t, it’s his wife, who’s been calling all evening. “You don’t sound like yourself,” she tells him.

It’s not clear who the intruder is: she intrudes, but so does he, playing along. They’re both willing to pursue the odd thread, neither so certain who’s weaving it.

Fictions, 1973