Born in 1938 to a sawmill worker and a waitress in Oregon, Raymond Carver’s collection of short stories are firmly based in the post-war beat America. Lacking any narrative plotline, at first the stories are somewhat difficult to decipher any reason or meaning. However, a closer reading below the surface reveals a highly sobered reflection on the subtle intricacies of everyday life.
Carver has a strong focus on family and relationships, considering in various ways the obligatory necessity to aid one’s own kin, and the burden this can cause not only financially, but mentally. The namesake of this collection, Elephant quite sadly tells of the drain people can cause for their loved ones, how the sturdy but good may be preyed upon by the weak and selfish.
These stories, on the surface very ordinary, lend a reflection on life that any can relate to on some level. Carver’s considerations of relationships follow not only the raging passions of a heart fouled, but likewise the mundane musings of a couple which soon become a realisation of the prominence of death. From the eyes of an ordinary American, Carver highlights the routine aspects of love which are taken for granted, abused or simply ignored.
Length: 124 (Collins Harvill)
Overall Rating: 2.5 stars