Learning something: Raymond Carver

As I’ve mentioned before, I spend lunchtime learning. I listen to podcasts or watch videos or do something that’s related to getting better as a writer by learning from others. I suggest it to anyone, and in any field. (When I worked in corporate America, I often listened to business history and behavioral sciences things during my lunches. They very much helped.)

Today, I want to point out that if you want to know why Raymond Carver was remarkable you could do worse than to pull up the video I’ve linked below, and listen to his prose as it’s being read from 16:35-18:20.

The whole video is interesting–to me, anyway–but if you’re a writer you really should listen to this little two-minute slice, this mini-story cut from the whole of Carver’s short story “The Bridle.” Let it flow over you. Think about its pacing, its tone, and the way its information rolls out in an absolutely perfect way to build itself up to its iconic and devastatingly sharp message. Look how it has (even enclosed within itself) a character/setting/problem, and try/fail cycles, and a resolution and validation. Listen to how it uses language and phrasing, how it uses “know what I mean,” and “you know” in such an invisible way.

I think I’ve listened to it fifty times over the last week.

It’s an achingly beautiful piece of prose.

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