Buried Cities and Buried Dreams in Raymond Carver's Beginners and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love


  • Eva Norrman Åbo Akademi University


Raymond Carver, ‘Beginners’, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Gordon Lish, place, cities


The fiction of Raymond Carver has been described as set in a generic, small town setting, a ‘Hopelessville’ that could be anywhere in the USA. This article considers this premise by exploring the role of place and mobility in Carver’s 1981 short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and its manuscript, published as ‘Beginners’. Both are included in Raymond Carver: Collected Stories (2009). A survey of the city toponyms in the manuscript shows the majority are located in the states of Washington, California, and Oregon. Several references to cities were cut in the editing process, as well as passages where place and mobility relate to plot and character development. However, in both the manuscript stories and the edited stories, the narrator’s setting is often anonymous, ‘shallow’, or ‘placeless’, while named places are somewhere else, appear as future dream destinations, or are unattainable or ‘buried’ in past temporal layers. The mobility of the characters, their reliance on a ‘next place’ as a remedy, and their disappointment reflect features of a changing, increasingly mobilised, society, for example in the US West, connecting the stories to 1970s geographers' thoughts on place and placelessness.

Author Biography

Eva Norrman, Åbo Akademi University

PhD candidate, Dept. of English Language and Literature, Åbo Akademi University


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