That’s what Rachel Cusk noted when she was asked to list her six favorite books. She included the collected stories of Raymond Carver, once the demigod of American creative writing for his oft-imitated clean, spare, scalpel-like style (sure, it may have been the work of editor Gordon Lish, but who’s keeping track?) because he can always teach us something:
His writing remains the best modern example of the technical and disciplinary basis of literary art. I often go back to Carver to remind myself what the rules are.
What are those rules? If you do not need it, leave it out. Find the emotion but don’t describe the emotion. Make everything high stakes while seeming to be low stakes. For starters.
If you are looking for a way to procrastinate on your writing some more, here are Cusk’s other favorite five:
- The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence
- The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
- The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter
- The Plague by Albert Camus