I’ve never much been one for reading short stories, I truly am a Novel girl at heart, but this week when I had to pick up Elephant and Other Stories by Raymond Carver for a new university module I was really pleasantly surprised.
Carver has this wonderfully simplistic style in terms of his language choices and sentence structure, and yet his stories express themes much more complicated than it seems on the surface.
His stories typically follow the everyday working man and the kind of troubles that he must face in his life. He focuses in on these small moments in a sea of a lifetime and shows us how important they can be. This results in powerful images that can stick and last in your mind as you close the page and think about what Carver was trying to show us with such simple plot and structure.
One of my favourites in the collection was Menudo, a story about a man dealing with the consequences of having an affair. It was the final image of the story that made it so; a simple, silent and powerful shot of a man in desperation. I could see it so vividly in my head. This was the case for many of the stories, Intimacy and Elephant also. Ironically, one of my least favourites called Whoever Was Using this Bed ended up completely baffling me when I went into class and realised I’d missed the perfect ending to the story, a huge metaphor that is so clear to me now.
What I enjoyed the most about this collection was it’s ability to leave me surprised and intrigued. The read was short in length but I found myself zipping through one story and quickly jumping into the next as I grew fonder of Carver’s style and pacing. If you’re new to short stories and want to try something different I really think this is a great place to start.