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The Many Sides of Dr. Melvin R. McGinnis Essay

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Raymond Carver's short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” leaves the reader feeling as if they have sat down at the table with a bottle of Gin and experienced first hand the effects of alcoholism and depression. In the original version of this story the “Beginners” Carver carefully crafts the many sides of an alcoholic personality developing strong knowable characters. The fundamental personalities are left fairly intact from the original version. It should be noted that the feelings that the reader are left with are due at least partially to the severe editing of the “Beginners” done by his editor and friend Gordon Lish. With this collaboration Carvers personal struggles still shine through but his intent of hope and recover from alcoholism were left mostly on the chopping block. Through many interviews and articles Raymond Carver make clear his personal struggles with alcoholism and how it has had an effect on his writing. INTERVIEWER: Where do your stories come from, then? I'm especially asking about the stories that have something to do with drinking. Carver: “At the very least it's referential. Stories long or short don't just come out of thin air.” (The Paris Review) The inner dialog and downward spiral of an alcoholic is experienced through the interaction between these personalities while discussing the topic of love. JA: I noticed recently you're using cliches in your characterizations, and I wonder if you're just observing, or recording the way a mind works. RC: It's there for a purpose; it's working for me, I think, not against me. Or at least I hope and assume this is the case!
Nick is the narrator and observer of the story. The only information about him is that he is Mels best friend, Laura...


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...imately failing to do so. Maybe there is a gem that you hold up as a standard for what you are looking for. Carver never describes self love, maybe it is left out because that is the elusive love the Mel McGinnis is struggling to find and in this story at least fails to find. Finding only self hate instead. The last two sentences suggest this story could be about anyone including yourself. “I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.” “What creates tension in a piece of fiction is partly the way the concrete words are linked together to make up the visible action of the story. But it's also the things that are left out, that are implied, the landscape just under the smooth (but sometimes broken and unsettled) surface of things.: (ShopTalk)



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