‘Why Don’t You Dance’ by Raymond Carver

McEwan, Paley and Ballard were my models, and I spent most of my time as an MA student at UEA trying – and failing – to emulate them. If Malcolm Bradbury had an opinion on this he didn’t say, but my other MA teacher was Angela Carter, and she did. I submitted a single page of single-spaced typewriting that attempted to be McEwan, Paley and Ballard all at once. “Oh Andrew,” she sighed, “why don’t you just write about what you know.” She gave me a copy of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. She had no use for it, but assumed I might – and I did. In the years that followed it seemed that everyone aspired to be Raymond Carver, if they didn’t already aspire to be Angela Carter. For a short while I tried – and repeatedly failed – to emulate ‘Why Don’t You Dance’. It’s still mysterious to me how it works, but when I began to write about what I knew, in a voice that sounded more plausibly like mine, the permission came from Raymond Carter – via Angela Carter – and has much to do with his embrace of the everyday and the quixotic in the quotidian.

First published in Quarterly West, 1978. Collected in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Knopf, 1983, as well as Where I’m Calling From and Collected Stories

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