I just finished reading Raymond Carver’s “Neighbors”, and I found myself drawn into minimalist fiction once again. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to do with the dialogue, as I don’t remember “The Swimmer” including that much. However, Carver establishes a nice rhythm with it, and it is not expositional.

The pattern of “Neighbors” and “The Swimmer” is similar. It starts with the protagonist completing an activity (i.e. feeding a cat or swimming in his neighbor’s pools) and progressively makes that activity more and more awkward. It makes me wonder if Carver’s other stories are similar or if ever he experiments in a style that is more difficult for him.

Also, I appreciate Carver’s (okay, I’m going to say it)… “handrails”… throughout his story. Actually, I enjoy that his said handrails sometimes lead to nowhere. For example, initially I assumed the cat moved the story forward for Bill. Then, I assumed it was the Stone’s apartment. Towards the end, the reader realizes that it is not just Bill who is changing but also Arlene.  Finally, the key becomes a hindrance for Bill and Arlene not being able to enter the apartment together. Is this because that neither of them were supposed to be in the apartment together? If Bill and Arlene were ever jointly in their neighbor’s apartment, would they have the same experiences as they have had separately? Also, it seems as if they are leaning into each other at the end–realizing that each other is all they have… or, is it that they are leaning into the door to force it open? What will happen on the other side of that door? Why do I care more about what happens on the other side of the door than I do about the main characters?

Overall, 4 gold stars for Carver. Not five because “The Swimmer” is a million times better, and I prefer swimming over apartments.

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