Friday, July 31, 2009

Pruning with a hatchet

This is well-covered ground, but what the hell did Raymond Carver's editor do to his work? Are we still figuring out how good a writer Carver really was? What would access to the original manuscripts have done to the running time of Robert Altman's Short Cuts? (TLS)

In the Beginners manuscript, Claire’s narration dwells on male fascination with the dead body: how the fishermen’s flashlights “played over” it; how the twenty-four-hour autopsy involved “men . . . examining it, putting things into it, cutting it, weighing, measuring”; how the investigators seek “evidence of rape. I’m sure they hope for rape. Rape would make it easier to understand”.

Much of this was ditched by Lish. Rape is never mentioned. In Beginners, Claire does not say “That’s right” to her husband’s amorous approach. Far from helping Stuart with the buttons of her blouse, she rejects him with “Stop, stop, stop” and a “stamp on his toes”. Stuart responds with vicious obscenities. The following day she moves into the spare bedroom and has a lock fixed on the door, which Stuart breaks at midnight, “just to show that he can”, standing in front of her in his underwear before taking refuge in the whisky bottle. The story ends with Stuart’s “cold” mother moving into their house to tend Claire, whose obsession with the dead girl continues.

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