- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

“To write is to say things one wouldn’t normally say to people.”


Happy birthday, Raymond Carver! Here are some quotes from his books and interviews.

“At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing—a sunset or an old shoe—in absolute and simple amazement.”

“[I]t ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.”

“A man can go along obeying all the rules and then it don’t matter a damn anymore.”

“That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say.”

“It’s possible, in a poem or short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring—with immense, even startling power.”

“I hate tricks. At the first sign of a trick or gimmick in a piece of fiction, a cheap trick or even an elaborate trick, I tend to look for cover. Tricks are ultimately boring, and I get bored easily, which may go along with my not having much of an attention span. But extremely clever chi-chi writing, or just plain tomfoolery writing, puts me to sleep. Writers don’t need tricks or gimmicks or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block.”

“The short story and the poem, I’ve often said, are closer to each other than the short story and the novel.”

“I’m sort of a witness, and, besides, that’s the life I myself lived for a long time. I don’t see myself as a spokesman but as a witness to these lives. I’m a writer.”

“Yes, writers are big liars.”

“I don’t like careless writers whose words have no moorings, are too slippery.”

“The story ought to reveal something, but not everything. There should be a certain mystery in the story. ”

“And me, I revise fifteen, twenty times. I keep the different versions…didn’t do it in the past but I do it now because of the book collectors. I like the physical labor of writing. I don’t have a word processor, but I have a typist who gives me back clean corrected texts…then I revise them and revise them. Tolstoy rewrote War and Peace seven times and he kept revising right up to the last minute before printing. I’ve seen photographs of the proofs! I like this concern for work well done.”


  • John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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