I used to hate Carver. "Nothing happens in these stories!" I would say. "What does it MEAN, for God's sake?!" It took me a while to realise that Carver's genius isn't for the grand epiphany, the convoluted plot, or the surprise ending. His genius is for moments of pathos; for moments of carefully observed humanity; for human foibles unflinchingly, but never unkindly, revealed. You really have to read him for yourself to understand, but here's an example: the story "Gazebo", which is one of my favourites from this collection. The story works because what 'the gazebo' means to the couple in the story is something most of us have felt: a dream of future happiness that is now lost to us; lost because we don't see how we might escape the banality of our own lives; lost because we fail to see how close we are to achieving it, if only we could slightly change the way we see things, or the way we live. None of this is overtly stated in the story - and that's Carver's genius. It is simply implied by juxtaposition. Thematic statements and grand epiphanies undermine so many stories (even some of Carver's earlier ones) because they are embarrassing. I don't mean embarrassing for the writer, I mean embarrassing for us, the readers: to have these slightly pathetic, vaguely shameful, and yet very human moments which are recognisably our own shoved in our faces feels like an accusation, and one we understandably reject. But to have them placed before us, gently, apparently undeliberately, so that we might see them for ourselves is wonderful. It engages OUR powers of observation and reflection, not just the writer's. We see ourselves reflected there in the story, and it's a private moment of self-revelation, of self-understanding. And more often than not, this is NOT a life-changing experience for us. No, the effect is much simpler, more realistic and more honest. It's a feeling of: "Oh, thank God. Other people feel this way, too. I'm not alone." It's a moment of empathy, not of explanation. Carver gives us this gift many times, and so well. Go read everything he's written. Especially if you're interested in writing your own stories. Carver's small body of work has as much to teach us about writing as it does about our lives.