The Student’s Wife by Raymond Carver, 1964
The magic trick:
Demonstrating the same kind of unhappiness and two different methods of coping
Man, this is depressing. I kind of hate these Hemingway-esque stories where two very unhappy characters talk to each other and we read and we marvel at the writing, the author’s total aversion to didacticism, the realness of the moments captured, and then the story ends and we sink into a bog of depression that has bubbled up in the words’ wake.
Thanks, Raymond! Really! What a joy!
Yes. But, really, the story is a wonder for its ability to demonstrate a marital unhappiness for which the husband and wife are employing two totally different kinds of coping mechanisms. She talks, she longs, she presses. He just wants to sleep.
It is all too realistic. What a joy! And that’s quite a trick on Carver’s part.
“Well,” she said and turned onto her back, pleased.
“I like good foods, steaks and hash browned potatoes, things like that. I like good books and magazines, riding on trains at night, and those times I flew on airplanes.”
“Of course none of this is in order of preference. I’d have to think about it if it was in order of preference but I like that, flying in airplanes. There’s a moment as you leave the ground you feel whatever happens is all right.”
She put her legs across his ankle.
“I like staying up late at night and staying in bed the next morning. I wish we could do that all the time, not just once in awhile.”