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About the book
  • Published: 1 December 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099540328
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $29.99


Formats & editions

This fascinating collection contains the original, unedited stories Raymond Carver wrote for what became - at the hands of his editor Gordon Lish - What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Tim O’Brien once said of Raymond Carver, ‘He uses the English language like a whittler’s knife, carving stark and unadorned prose-objects, paring away everything but the very core of human emotion.'

Beginners is Carver’s most famous collection of short stories – What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – before this whittling process had begun. It is the unedited version of the masterpiece which would be cut by almost fifty per cent by Carver’s editor and mentor, Gordon Lish, before its original publication in 1981 and which would go on to become one of the most influential pieces of modern literature.

Carver’s preoccupation with the marrow of things is just as present in these longer stories. A young girl, dancing with her lover amidst the debris of an older man’s life, has her first forewarning of the dangers of adulthood, and is filled with an ‘unbearable happiness’. A man and woman lock themselves in a motel room and slowly, painfully, acknowledge the end of a relationship, while somewhe

  • Pub date: 1 December 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099540328
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $29.99

About the Author

Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, in 1938. His first short stories appeared in Esquire during Gordon Lish's tenure as fiction editor in the 1970s. Carver's work began to reach a wider audience with the 1976 publication of Will You Please be Quiet, Please, but it was not until the 1981 publication of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love under Gordon Lish, then at Knopf, that he began to achieve real literary fame. This collection was edited by more than 40 per cent before publication, and Carver dedicated it to his fellow writer and future wife, Tess Gallagher, with the promise that he would one day republish his stories at full length. He went on to write two more collections of stories, Cathedral and Elephant, which moved away from the earlier minimalist style into a new expansiveness, as well as several collections of poetry. He died in 1988, aged fifty.

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Praise for Beginners

“Beginners is unlikely to replace What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Instead, it will be in dialogue with it, because the story has no end: there will always be afterthoughts”

Sarah Churchwell, Guardian

“Hopefully, thanks to Gallagher, every small, vital nuance, every moving observation, each choice of word as Carver wrote it, is there to be seen; that is why Carver cared enough to begin setting it right, and others have now finished the task”

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

“An extraordinary book, more generous and rambling in tone than its distilled counterpart”

Tim Adams, Observer

“The most interesting book of the year”

Sunday Telegraph

“an extraordinary book, and probably the most influential story collection of the past 30 years”

Tim Adams, Observer

“a landmark book, full of surprises.”


“Lish may have helped put Carver on the map of the American short story, but the writer made himself its capital city.”

Sunday Times

“His style is fearsome: remorselessly spare and precise yet so sharply nuanced that the ordinary people he writes about are exposed in all their messy, emotional weakness...Pure pleasure to read on its own, it is also fascinating to compare against the Lish version.”

Victoria Moore, Daily Mail

“Here, for the first time, we can read the original versions. They are very good.”

Michael Kerrigan, Scotsman

“These vignettes remain tremendously distinctive and their characters' generally doomed attempts to keep their hope alive "in the world of men - where defeat and death are more the natural order of things" are wry and touching. Carver's landscapes of motels, "negroes" and "longhairs" are documents from another era, but they are grubby, flawed little gems that still fascinate.”

James Smart, Guardian

“The surprise is that despite Carver's well-earned reputation for spare, grainy prose that dipped into the hard-bitten lives of his characters, these stories have a richness of texture that complements Carver's austerity of tone. Lish seems to have flattened Carver's style, rather than sharpening it, and the tales in Beginners demonstrate just how great a writer Carver was”

James Urquhart, Financial Times

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