Here is a rare recording of Raymond Carver, the man Stephen King described as “surely the most influential writer of American short stories in the second half of the 20th century,” reading “A Serious Talk” in 1983.
The story is from Carver’s second collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, published in 1981. It draws on the author’s personal history of alcoholism and domestic unhappiness. In his 1983 Paris Review interview, Carver said:
The fiction I’m most interested in has lines of reference to the real world. None of my stories really happened, of course. But there’s always something, some element, something said to me or that I witnessed, that may be the starting place. Here’s an example: “That’s the last Christmas you’ll ever ruin for us!” I was drunk when I heard that, but I remembered it. And later, much later, when I was sober, using only that one line and other things I imagined, imagined so accurately that they could have happened, I made a story — “A Serious Talk.”
It’s a story with many of Carver’s hallmarks. In a review of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love published in New York magazine, Jayne Anne Phillips writes, “Carver’s stories vocalize a hard respect for losses inevitable and quiet as the fall of ash from a burning cigarette. In this vacuum lies the strange tenderness that is Carver’s vision, a territory dangerously stark and unadorned.”
Carver’s reading will be added to our list of Free Audio Books.