The title of Raymond Carver’s 1981 short story collection “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” has become a popular phrase used to describe the complexity and nuance of love. The stories in the collection touch on themes of dysfunctional relationships, alcoholism, adultery, and miscommunication.
While the characters struggle to connect and express themselves, their conversations reveal poignant insights about the nature of intimate relationships. Here are some thought-provoking quotes from Carver’s stories that have taken on a life of their own:
“I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.” – From “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”
This quote evokes the intimate vulnerability of sharing personal stories about love and relationships. Even as darkness enveloped the characters, their rapt attention connected them in the revealing conversation.
“It ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.”– From “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
The characters in the story admit how little they truly understand about the complexities of love. This sentiment counters the temptation to oversimplify or generalize about something so profound and mysterious.
“I’m afraid for that man who says it’s simple. It seems to me it’s the most complicated thing in the world.”– From “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
Carver again warns about simplifying love, implying that anyone who claims love is easy or straightforward lacks experience and wisdom. Love takes endless forms and defies definition.
“Everything gets turned on its head when love comes in the door.”– From “Friendship”
Falling in love fundamentally disrupts our priorities and perspectives. Love’s arrival introduces exhilarating possibilities while threatening the status quo.
Carver’s frank, revealing portrayals of intimate relationships continue to move and enlighten readers. His characters fumble to articulate elusive truths about the bewildering nature of love. These memorable quotes distill fleeting moments of hard-won insight or sudden awareness that resonate with anyone who has loved and lost.