Jerry And Molly And Sam by Raymond Carver, 1972
The magic trick:
Portraying a world of the desperate lower-middle class that is rarely shown in literature
Selfish, stupid people making selfish, stupid decisions. What is so appealing about Raymond Carver stories?
For starters, they’re very well-written. That helps.
But I think the real key is the sense of desperation that surrounds nearly all of characters. These are not selfish, stupid, rich kids pissing away mommy and daddy’s money. These are men and women on the fringes of stability, facing limited options and struggling to find happiness in any of them. It is far easier to feel sympathy for selfish, stupid characters in such situations.
So when Al drinks too much and cheats on his wife and revels in self-pity and steals his children’s dog, well, it’s not impossible to feel sympathy for him. And that’s quite a trick on Carver’s part.
Now he was having an affair, for Christ’s sake, and he didn’t know what to do about it. He did not want it to go on, and he did not want to break it off: you don’t throw everything overboard in a storm. Al was drifting, and he knew he was drifting, and where it was all going to end he could not guess at. But he was beginning to feel he was losing control over everything. Everything.
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