‘So Much Water So Close to Home’ by Raymond Carver

I first encountered Carver’s short stories when I was a teenager, trawling the local library for things I hadn’t already read. At the time, I couldn’t work out if he liked people or not, but I was drawn to his style and his acute observations of relationships between men and women.

In ‘So Much Water…’ Claire, the narrator, is shocked to discover that her husband and his buddies have found the body ofa dead girl washed up on the shore upon arrival for their annual camping trip. Instead of reporting this to the police, the men carry on with their boys’ weekend, merrily fishing, eating, and drinking whisky. Reading it again, I share Claire’s horror and disbelief.

Carver writes with detached observation about the disillusionment of men in mid-century America, his emotionallydisengaged characters full of grimy, unapologetic bluntness. Marriage and domestic life – meal times, conversation, sex – are all portrayed with a scary kind of detachment, devoid of passion or feeling.

First published in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Knopf, 1981

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