He drew hard on his cigarette, which threatened to wilt under the strain of the sucking like an old man’s penis. If he wanted to review, he thought, he’d goddamn review. Sandy looked at him slit-eyed. It was a sexy look once. Funny how that same look now meant something else.
“So who you reviewing this time, huh?” she said.
“Raymond Carver,” he said.
Sandy imagined him thinking that she didn’t know who Raymond Carver was. She knew alright; and she’d tell him. “I know who he is,” she said.
“I know you know,” he said.
He really rated Raymond Carver. Sandy knew all about that. He figured she was just talking for talking’s sake. Raymond Carver, he thought, was once so overrated he was now underrated. Funny that. His back was to Sandy; he was hunched over the computer and he wouldn’t be turning around. Not if she was going to give him that look again. He wanted to finish his review in peace. It was Carver’s second collection of stories, his most famous probably. He was eager to write about those sentences, how they were blunt but expressive. He wanted to see if he could write something meaningful about how those stories were like snapshots, even though that was a cliche. He thought about how certain photographs of people capture something, something not staged, not posed for, something in motion maybe. It was those kind of pictures that What We Talk About When We Talk About Love reminded him of. Those were his favourite kind of pictures.
“What you thinking about now?” said Sandy.
That ‘now’ really was full of significance, he thought, the kind of significance he didn’t want to touch on. What Carver left out was worth more than what he put in. That was his opinion. Like, when that guy says in the first story something like “they [the neighbours] thought they’d seen just about everything over here,” and you got to wonder what this everything is, because Carver doesn’t tell you. But that was a cliche too, the bit about what Carver left out.
“I can’t finish this with you peeping at me,” he said.
The whole goddamn review was going to be full of cliches if she didn’t scram. He’d be writing about loneliness and quiet despair next, about heavy drinking, about he didn’t know what, but he knew it was bad.
“Guess I better leave you to it,” she said.
“Guess you better had,” he said.
“So I’ve got to read about it again?” she said.
‘Don’t start that again, Sandy,” he said.
She wouldn’t, she wouldn’t start that again because she knew it did no good. There was no way through, not after what happened. The best you got these days was a nearly-conversation about Raymond Carver, which wasn’t about Raymond Carver at all. And it occurred to her, as she left the room and sat down on the sofa in the once-full-of-life living room, that you could make a joke about that. What We Talk About When We Talk About Raymond Carver. She could write a review of that book herself.