Even though much of the dialogue is the same, if “Beginners” feels like the worst dinner party of your life, “WWTA” feels like every dinner party you’ve ever attended.
There’s no question that Carver came to regret the transformation of his work into a minimalist style.
Character descriptions are slashed to the bare minimum, page-long monologues are reduced to a paragraph.
He isolated character actions into their own paragraphs, affording them much more metaphorical weight and allowing much of the emotion to go unsaid.
Between the abundance of dialogue, the long monologues with almost no paragraph breaks, and the claustrophobic -esque set-up, “Beginners” often feels more like a play than a short story.
The emotion is heightened, the dialogue is often very explicit with the story’s themes, and the climax involves not one, but two extended dramatic monologues, complete with the dramatic reveal of a secret abortion.
As the story goes, most of what American readers love about Raymond Carver is not the work of Carver at all.
All of his defining traits as an author—the minimalism, the colloquial roughness, the loud silences—none of these elements are particularly apparent before his work was edited (or, more accurately, revised) by the famously overbearing editor Gordon Lish.
Many critics essentially credit Lish with Carver’s success.
While some writers take umbrage with Lish’s slash-and-burn mentality as an editor, scant few critics contend that Carver’s writing was “better” before Lish got his hands on it.