Random Thoughts

Three-by-five cards

... Raymond Carver is the best short story writer, ever.

by Ed Boyd

In “On Writing”, in FIRES: essays, poems, stories, (c.1984) Raymond Carver was famous in
the nineteen-sixties for revitalizing the short form. He mentions certain ideas from
notable writers of sayings that should be put on three-by-five cards for easy access:

“I write a little every day without hope and without despair.”
    Isak Dinesen

“Fundamental accuracy of statement is the one sole morality of writing”
    Ezra Pound

“…and suddenly everything became clear to him.”
    Anton Chekov

“No cheap tricks.”
    Geoffrey Wolff

“…something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing.”
    V. S. Pritchett

“No iron can stab the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.”
    Guy de Maupassant

These are the selections from Carver that he felt deserving of being posted on three-by-five cards.

Carver posted on three-by five cards, of his own, that he wanted to remember:


“The short story writer’s task is to invest the glimpse with all that is in his power.”

“For the details to be concrete and conveying meaning, the language must be accurate and precisely given.”

“It’s possible, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace and
precise language, and endow those things... a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring... with immense, even startling power.”

“I hate tricks.”

“But the exact way of looking at things, and finding the right context for expressing that way of looking, that’s something else.”

“There has to be tension, (menace) a sense that something is imminent, that certain
things are in relentless motion, or else, most often, there simply won’t be a story.”

“That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they better be the right ones, with
punctuation in the right places so that they can say best what they are meant to say.”    

To those who have read Raymond Carver, from his early writings to his later, like
“Cathedral”, know of his masterpieces in short story.  To those who have not, I trust that these notes may whet your appetite.

October 5, 2012

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