The Guardian recently asked a group of distinguished authors to read one of their favorite short stories. The resulting podcast series began appearing on the newspaper’s Web site last Friday and will continue through the 4th of January. A few of the writers chose widely recognized masterpieces. Many selected more obscure works. So far, there are podcasts of Zadie Smith reading “Umberto Buti” by Giuseppe Pontiggia, Ruth Rendell reading “Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook” by M.R. James, Simon Callow Reading “The Christmas Tree” by Charles Dickens, and Nadine Gordimer reading “The Centaur” by José Saramago.
The American writer Richard Ford (The Sportswriter, Independence Day, Rock Springs) chose to read “The Student’s Wife” by his late friend Raymond Carver. The story was first published in America in 1976, in Carver’s debut short story collection, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please. It exemplifies Carver’s direct, economical style. But don’t make the mistake of calling Carver a “minimalist” around Ford. He describes the story, and the richness of Carver’s writing, in The Guardian:
Its verbal resources are spare, direct, rarely polysyllabic, restrained, intense, never melodramatic, and real-sounding while being obviously literary in intent. (You always know, pleasurably, that you’re reading a made short story.) These affecting qualities led some dunderheads to call his stories “minimalist”, which they are most assuredly not, inasmuch as they’re full-to-the-brim with the stuff of human intimacy, of longing, of barely unearthable humour, of exquisite nuance, of pathos, of unlooked-for dred, and often of love–expressed in words and gestures not frequently associated with love. More than they are minimal, they are replete with the renewings and the fresh awarenesses we go to great literature to find.
You can listen to Ford’s reading of “The Student’s Wife” below, and follow the rest of the stories as they appear through Jan. 4, along with introductions by the authors who selected them, at The Guardian.