Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Carvery

Just about to head off for New Years carvery here in my hotel (Madame Chiang sends her regards) so not much time.

Just wanted to say that I read Raymond Carver's original version of "A Small, Good Thing" by the pool. It was cut by 78% (word count) by Gordon Lish before publication in the 1981 What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. This is the book that Robert Altman made into the movie "Short Cuts". A section of the movie tells this story.

Carver's full version goes for 25 pages. All I've got to say is that the following lines:

"It's good to eat something," he said, watching them. "There's more. Eat up. Eat all you want. There's all the rolls in the world here."
[My emphasis.]

- I suddenly sobbed. Loudly. I was lying on a lounge by the pool. I had to cover my eyes.

Do you know the story? [SPOILER ALERT]

A mum orders a cake for her son's birthday. The son is hit by a car, goes into a coma and several days later dies... Meanwhile the cake has been forgotten about. The baker makes a series of harassing anonymous phone-calls not aware that the son was at that time in a coma. After his death, the parents realize who the calls were coming from and go to confront the baker at midnight. Their anger breaks down as the baker realizes his mistake and rotten behaviour. He gives them coffee, bread and cinnamon buns. And he says the above lines.

The first version did not affect me in the same way at all, even though Updike included it in his anthology of the best Short Stories Of The Century. Without rereading the old, edoited version, I think I prefer this long rambling one full of flashbacks and details of the hospital and its inhabitants.


All the rolls in the world. All the sorrow in the world. All the sadness in the world. All the contriteness in the world. All the fate in the world. All the lost children in the world. All the grieving parents in the world.


Shit I'm choking up again (it must be the drugs) as I type this.

All the talent in the world. Carver, a reformed alcoholic, died of lung cancer at 50, seven years after publishing the Lish edited collection and becoming dramatically famous.



savannah said...

i haven't rea carver in ages, sugar, so thank you for reminding me. i'll have to find my copy. be well, sugarpie and thanks for the birthday wishes! happy new year!

expat@large said...

My old Carvers are somewhere in Aus. Mum's, sister's, son's, who knows?

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