Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Reports of Gin and Conversation (Annotation G1-9/Goddard)

The flow of conversation in Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” matches closely the lowering levels of a bottle of cheap cut-rate lousy gin. Obviously the more gin, which the characters consume, the drunker they become. Carver’s use of dialogue as reported through his narrator Nick is reliable, smelling of gin and an indicator of drunkenness.
“Maybe we were a little drunk by then. I know it was hard keeping things in focus” (Carver 152). When Nick thinks everyone is a little drunk, the reader believes him. He is after all a very trustworthy narrator. The entire story is from his point of view, he even relays all the conversation. As a narrator, he is objective, and fair. He passes so little judgment on the rest of the characters, “My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right” (Carver 137) Of course a more judgmental narrator might say “my friend Mel was talking. Mel is a drinker of gin, and sometimes that gives him the right.”
Superficially, the reader knows they are all drinking gin: “There was an ice bucket on the table. The gin and the tonic water kept going around” (Carver 137). In Nick’s retelling of the conversation, his observations also help the reader to feel the drunkenness. “Laura was having a hard time lighting her cigarette. Her matches kept going out” (Carver 150) A more compelling and certainly clever drunken indicator is the dialogue in itself. Nick has told us about his friend Mel, the cardiologist, and someone who spent five years in seminary. We know about Mel’s wife Terri, although not as much. Nick says of himself and his wife Laura: “Laura is a legal secretary. We’d met in a professional capacity” (Carver 141) All four of these people, aside from their age, ranging 45 for Mel to 33 for Laura are professional people and presumably educated people. In the beginning, the manner in which they speak to one another is reflective of their age and education. As the conversation continues neither Carver nor his narrator need to slur words on the page. It isn’t necessary. Mel is trying to tell a story of love, something disturbing and from his experience in the hospital. Mel’s report of the incident is continually interrupted. This story, which is probably hard enough to hear, is gory by nature something commonplace to a doctor. With each interruption Mel gets sidetracked and angry. In these interruptions, Carver has subtly clued readers in on the level of gin in the systems of his characters. Mel moves into a tangent of armor clad knights and misspeaks the word vessel for vassal. When corrected” “Vassals, vessels, what the fuck’s the difference? You knew what I meant anyway. All right. So I’m not educated. I learned my stuff. I’m a heart surgeon, sure, but I’m just a mechanic. I go in and I fuck around and I fix things. Shit” (Carver 149) The way in which he speaks, short sentence, lack of continuity in his story telling abilities and the profanities in his speech are a character change due to gin.

Carver, Raymond. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Stories. New York: Vintage Books, 1982

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