Robert Albazi at 3AM Magazine:
At the Mildura Writer’s Festival in 2019, on a panel with Craig Sherborne and Moreno Giovannoni, Helen Garner spoke about Raymond Carver’s unedited stories. She hated them for all of their sentimental scenes—ones that would be removed by Carver’s editor Gordon Lish for What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Lish took a knife to the cushy scenes and Carver became a master of the spare and cutting. When we arrived home from the festival, my partner and I compared the un-edited stories in Beginners with their edited counter-parts in What we Talk About. For a long time, I had preferred the un-edited versions, yet it had been at least six years since I last read through the stories. We sat on the couch, looking for differences, reading them aloud and deciding which version was better. Garner was right—in What We Talk About large sections of emotive description are gone and, when characters are presented under a harsh light, their crudest actions can leave the reader with sharper impressions of their personality.