Books

Collected Stories by Raymond Carver

Dan DeLuca
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

This collection makes it clear that sometimes word-slashing editors have a writer's best interests at heart, and aren't so evil, after all.


Collected Stories

Publisher: Library of America
Length: 960 pages
Author: Raymond Carver
Price: $40.00
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2009-08
Amazon

By definition, editors may be coldhearted blackguards bent on reducing the word counts and crushing the spirits of writers whose only noble intention is to follow their muse. But even by those standards, Gordon Lish, in his dealings with revered short-story writer Raymond Carver, seems to have been a particularly evil genius.

As Carver made his name in the '70s by using everyday language to depict the often self-destructive lives of hard-drinking working-class characters, Lish was his principal editor. First, at Esquire, Lish championed Carver's work when the author was struggling with alcoholism, and he edited Carver's career-making collections, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (1976) and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981), which earned Carver a reputation as a widely influential "minimalist", a tag he had no taste for.

In the thousand-plus pages of the Library of America edition of the collected stories of Carver, who died of lung cancer in 1988 at age 50, it's easy to see why he had contempt for the term. Left to his own devices — as he was in rich-in-detail late story collections like Cathedral (1983), after he broke with Lish — Carver was practically prolix compared with the laconic narratives on which his standing as an iconic writer largely rests.

The severity with which Lish wielded a blue pencil on Carver's work was first revealed in a New York Times Magazine article by D.T. Max in 1998, which raised issues of literary codependence and primary authorship.

Last year, the New Yorker published "Beginners" a fully fleshed-out version of the "What We Talk About" story in the twice-as-long form that Carver originally intended.

With the blessing of Carver's widow, the writer Tess Gallagher, Library of America editors William L. Stull and Maureen P. Carroll go further, publishing the entire 17-story "Beginners" collection as Carver submitted it to Lish.

"Collected Stories" affords the opportunity to revisit many classic Carver stories.

There's "Neighbors", in which a man and a woman charged with feeding the cat of the couple next door can't resist trying on their clothes. And there's the gravely absurd "Why Don't You Dance?" about a man who encourages a young couple to make themselves at home amid the bedroom suite he's set up in his front yard.

Or there's "Viewfinder", which begins, "A man without hands came to the door to sell me a photograph of my house." All display what Lish called the "peculiar bleakness" that so many short story writers under Carver's influence have imitated but fail to match. (The collection, however, doesn't tell the full story of Carver's literary output, since it steers clear of the six volumes of poetry he published.)

But the full "Beginners", plus exacting notes from Stull and Carroll, including an anguished letter from Carver pleading with Lish to restore the stories to their original versions (Lish refused), means that the voluminous volume will be read as a compare-and-contrast exercise between Carver's versions and the often renamed, significantly rewritten stories that Lish radically cut.

How radically? Carver's "Beginners" manuscript was cut by 55 percent, and two of the stories were slashed by a whopping 78 percent. Ouch!

Which are better? Usually, Lish's.

The exception is "The Bath", about a boy who gets hit by a car on his birthday and a vindictive baker — played by Lyle Lovett in Robert Altman's 1993 Carver-inspired movie, Short Cuts — who's annoyed that a cake hasn't been picked up by the boys' parents. The savagely condensed Lish rendering conveys menace, but Carver's version, published in Cathedral as "A Small, Good Thing", offers a richer, more fully human character study.

As a rule, though, Carver's "Beginners" stories are weaker for their extra detail. What is merely implied in Lish's spare edit of "So Much Water So Close to Home", about three buddies who find a woman's body on a fishing trip and don't report it until the weekend is over, is needlessly spelled out in Carver's original.

In "Tell the Women We're Going" ,about a pair of young married guys on an ugly Sunday joyride, is all the more powerful because Lish chose to not show us the violence, and completely rewrote a few key lines.

Carver, of course, is the creative progenitor. Lish wouldn't have had any stories to cut down to size if Carver hadn't written them in the first place. And there's plenty of good work in "Collected Stories" that Lish had nothing to do with, from the masterful title tale of "Cathedral" to the essays "My Father's Life" and "Fires", which explores the influence of his children on Carver's writing.

For a Carver loyalist, it's a tough pill to swallow that so much of the bold, bracing impact of the early stories would have been lost without Lish, and that much of the apparent arc of Carver's development really was the result of his prose's no longer being cut back so harshly.

On top of that, there's the even harder conclusion to confront: that sometimes word-slashing editors have a writer's best interests at heart, and aren't so evil, after all.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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