Between the abundance of dialogue, the long monologues with almost no paragraph breaks, and the claustrophobic -esque set-up, “Beginners” often feels more like a play than a short story.The emotion is heightened, the dialogue is often very explicit with the story’s themes, and the climax involves not one, but two extended dramatic monologues, complete with the dramatic reveal of a secret abortion.
Between the abundance of dialogue, the long monologues with almost no paragraph breaks, and the claustrophobic -esque set-up, “Beginners” often feels more like a play than a short story.The emotion is heightened, the dialogue is often very explicit with the story’s themes, and the climax involves not one, but two extended dramatic monologues, complete with the dramatic reveal of a secret abortion.Tags: Princeton University Services Cover LetterEd Economics Past Papers Mark SchemesEssays On Strengths And Weaknesses As A WriterPersonal Experience Essay ExamplesSmall Business Retirement PlanIntroduction For A Personal Narrative EssayLord Of The Flies Persuasive EssayElie Wiesel EssayYale Application Essay
Perhaps most notably, he almost entirely jettisons the last three pages.
He trades in Carver’s unabashedly theatrical catharsis for a quiet, ambiguous fizzle.
For better and for worse, nearly every editorial choice he makes is aimed at changing—or, at the very least, muzzling—the emotion of the story.
But while these edits successfully make “Beginners” more traditionally “literary,” they also take away from the raw power of the piece.
While melodrama is generally frowned upon in literary circles, and I would argue with good reason, “Beginners” is much more self-aware and deliberate than many critics give it credit for.
On the second page, Terri and Herb have already traded several barbs in what was supposed to be a friendly conversation about the nature of love.Whatever your personal taste, that sense of melodrama is very much intentional.The reader is not meant to like these characters; rather, she is meant to feel as if she is at the worst dinner party of her life.When Terri accuses Herb of “dumping on her,” the narrator specifies that she “wasn’t smiling.” The couple tiptoes to the brink of social impropriety, and then Terri tries to change the subject for the sake of their guests.The narrator says, “She smiled now, and I thought that was the last of it.” When that is, decidedly, not the last of it, that line only serves to highlight that the couple is being rudely open with their emotions.The never-ending tension fills the reader with a physical dread while reading “Beginners,” an effect that is almost entirely absent in “WWTA.” Not only are the explicit declarations of anger or sadness taken out, but the abundant paragraph breaks and section breaks serve to give the illusion that time has passed in between awkward moments, dissipating the tension and robbing them of their cringeworthy power.The insertion of white space might make the story more subtle, but it also serves to give the reader a break.Many critics essentially credit Lish with Carver’s success.While some writers take umbrage with Lish’s slash-and-burn mentality as an editor, scant few critics contend that Carver’s writing was “better” before Lish got his hands on it.It’s easy to see why Lish is a legendary editor; however, I can’t help but wonder if there was a middle ground, a version of the story that preserved some of the unusual aspects of “Beginners” while tempering some of Carver’s more melodramatic tendencies.Then, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” could have been the white whale: a more effective and literary version of a remarkably different piece of literature.