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Reviews141 ReadingRaymond Carver, by Randolph Paul Runyon; xviii & 246 pp. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1992, $24.95. Reading Raymond Carver is a study of Carver's collections of short stories though it casts a final glance at a few poems in Ultramarine. It is arranged chronologically, in the order the collections were published, and concludes with his last seven stories. Each story is studied sequentially in the order in which it appeared in book form. This traditional presentation is justified by Runyon's intention to study the sequence itself, the book and notjust the separate stories. What Runyon reads in Carver's stories is another text in the space between them, the buried narrative hidden in the sequential echoes and resemblances. There is no progressive development, no recurrence of situations or characters from beginning to end in Carver's collections as in short story cycles like Anderson 's Winesburg, Ohio or Welty's Golden Apples; there are other stories, metastories referring to each other in their constituent motives and images. This subtle intratextuality brings out a different Carver, a self-reflexive, metafictional writer who arranged his stories in a significant order that becomes a text in itself with self-referential allusions to its repetition. Reading between the lines or "in snatches" is likened by Runyon to the carving of the pie evoked in "Blackbird Pie." The birds must be made to sing: the hidden echoing elements in the text must be freed from their immediate context. The reader's strategy duplicates that of the writer. "To write is to carve; Carver who began with 'pictures of words' turns into the literal picture his name evokes" (p. 205). Runyon has a perfect knowledge of Carver's stories and obviously delights in the interplay of small details, recurring words and lingering images that previous Carver critics have largely overlooked. Carver's revisions between the stories' first publication and their appearance in book form seem to support Runyon's thesis, since several changes set up resonances between contiguous stories. But his second self-referential claim seems somewhat farfetched at times when it hangs the whole burden of metafiction on the rather shaky peg of the repetition of one or two words taken out of context. Only in a few stories, such as "Put Yourself in My Shoes" and later "Blackbird Pie" or "Errand," does Carver pose textual riddles. Runyon's Freudian approach is more rewarding. Freud's dream analysis provides a model for understanding how the stories work: "each successive one functioning like a dream, picking up details left over from the immediately preceding story and using them as raw material for its own narrative" (p. 152). The analysis of the father-son relationship in several of the stories in Cathedral and in Fires is truly illuminating as is his analysis of the ambiguous mother image in Will You Phase Be Quiet, Please? At last the usual clichés about Carver's minimalism or realism are discarded and attention is paid to indirection and ambiguity in his fiction. Were it the 142Philosophy and Literature only achievement of Reading Raymond Carver it would be welcome reading indeed. But it is also a most insightful piece ofwork with many brilliant passages, e.g., the analysis of the middle stories in Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? with its convincing emphasis on the letters folded in half like the collection itself which might be folded in half between two stories to read the two "one on top of—congruent with—the other" (p. 38) or the suggestion that closeness between situations may be productive of meaning, perhaps even of narrative ("What Do You Do in San Francisco?"). Reading Raymond Carver is a very stimulating contribution to Carver criticism that will leave no reader indifferent. University of PoitiersClaudine Verley The Idea ofthe Labyrinthfrom Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages, by Penelope Reed Doob; xviii & 355 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992, $13.95 paper. This is a very good book that provides insight into ancient and medieval texts which, consciously or unconsciously, are informed by the pervasive idea ofthe labyrinth. Ms. Doob makes it clear that she means "idea" not in a Platonic sense, but as a habit of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 141-142
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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