The nine stories and one poem collected in this volume formed the basis for the astonishingly original film “Short Cuts” directed by Robert Altman. Collected altogether in this volume, these stories form a searing and indelible portrait of American innocence and loss. From the collections Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, Where I’m Calling From, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, and A New Path to the Waterfall; including an introduction by Robert Altman. With deadpan humor and enormous tenderness, this is the work of “one of the true contemporary masters” (The New York Review of Books).
The forthcoming Robert Altman film, Shortcuts , has already generated a good deal of publicity, and more is sure to follow with the movie's nationwide release. The nine stories and one prose poem upon which the film is based, gathered from Where I'm Calling From and several other Carver books for this Vintage edition, by themselves can make a case for Carver's greatness. His characters here are typically inarticulate, unwilling or incapable of taking control of lives mired in regret and tawdriness, yet under the Carver touch these lower- and middle-class Americans grope and lurch toward an expression of sorts that betrays a tragic self-knowledge. In ``So Much Water So Close to Home,'' a wife's marital unhappiness is vague and unacknowledged until her husband, on a weekend fishing trip with the guys, admits to discovering a woman's naked body dead in a river, and leaving it there, unwilling to disturb the sporting bliss for someone past helping. In ``Jerry and Molly and Sam,'' a philandering husband, overwhelmed by yelping kids and the family dog, abandons the pet, only to have his efforts to reclaim the dog rejected by the dog itself. Those who read the stories before seeing Altman's film may want to consult the screenplay to see just what happened to the stories, for Altman and Barhydt take enormous liberties in order to weave the stories into a cinematic form. For example, the woman in the story ``Vitamins,'' who sells nutritional supplements door to door, is transformed into a home phone-sex worker in the film. Regardless of the movie's reception, film students and aspiring screenwriters will be eager for both the Vintage collection and the screenplay to understand the Altman structure. For readers and filmgoers who are left wanting to know more about Carver, Remembering Ray (edited by Stull, a professor of rhetoric at the University of Hartford and his wife, Carroll, an attorney) will fit the bill. Not a biography in the conventional sense, this collection presents 40 reminiscences--by Joyce Carol Oates, Jay McInerney, Jane Kenyon, Ted Solotaroff, Robert Coles, Tobias Wolff and Hayden Carruth, among others--of a clearly most-beloved man, whose generosity to fellow writers, neighbors and others is almost legendary. Together, these three volumes testify to the enduring, and still productive legacy of a brilliant American artist.