> Skip to content

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


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

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    December 1, 2010


    224 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • Fishpond
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

Also by Raymond Carver