Thursday, December 15, 2011

Raymond Carver and Ovid

In Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” cardiologist Mel McGinnis is telling a story about an old couple with in the hospital after a car crash. They are in casts and bandages, head to foot:

“Well, the husband was very depressed for the longest while. Even after he found out that his wife was going to pull through, he was still very depressed. Not about the accident, though. I mean, the accident was one thing, but it wasn’t everything. I’d get up to his mouth-hole, you know, and he’d say no, it wasn’t the accident exactly but it was because he couldn’t see her through his eye-holes. He said that was what was making him feel so bad. Can you imagine? I’m telling you, the man’s heart was breaking because he couldn’t turn his goddamn head and see his goddamn wife.”
I’ve known this story for a long time, but it was only recently, teaching Ovid, not Carver, that it came to me: Orpheus and Eurydice.

[A clarification: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” is Gordon Lish’s edited version of Carver’s story “Beginners.” This passage above is Lish’s work, not Carver’s. You can read the original story and Lish’s edited version at the New Yorker. Which do you prefer? Either way, the story remains a late-twentieth-century version of Plato’s Symposium, a drunken discourse on the nature of love.]

comments: 2

brownstudy said...

And that speech appears a couple of times spoken by the stage character of doctor played by Michael Keaton's character in "Birdman." Fascinating movie in form, kind of interesting in content. Each character in the movie has his or her own Carveresque moment of truth-telling soliloquy. And their complaints are all about love, in one way or another.

Michael Leddy said...

I have to see that movie. Thanks for the description, Mike.