Writer and poet.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is the name of a 1981 collection of short stories by American writer Raymond Carver, as well as the title of one of the stories in the collection.
Why Don't You Dance?
Mr. Coffee and Mr. Fixit
Could See the Smallest Things
Tell the Women We're Going
After the Denim
So Much Water So Close to Home
The Third Thing That Killed My Father
A Serious Talk
Everything Stuck to Him
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, 45 years old and is married to Teresa. Nick describes Mel as tall and rangy with curly soft hair. Teresa also known as Terri is Mel's second wife and they live in together in Albuquerque. Terri is described by Nick as bone-thin with a pretty face, dark eyes, and brown hair. Mel and Terri have two friends named Nick and Laura. Nick is 38 years old and is the narrator of the story. Laura is 35, married to Nick and works as a legal secretary.
The story is about four friends—Mel, Teresa (Terri), Laura, and Nick. The setting is Mel's house, around a table with a bucket of ice in the middle. A bottle of gin is inside it.
They soon start to talk about love (as the title suggests).
Terri has had an abusive relationship, the abuse, she says, deriving from love. Ed, Terri's former abusive boyfriend, "loved her so much he tried to kill her." Ed would beat Terri, he dragged her around the living room by her ankles knocking her into things along the way. Terri believed that Ed loved her and his abuse was his way of showing it. No matter what Terri said, Mel refused to believe that was "love." Ed would stalk Mel and Terri. He would call Mel at work with threatening messages. At one point Mel was so scared he bought a gun, and made out a will. Mel even wrote to his brother in California saying that "if something happened to him" to look for Ed.
Her abusive boyfriend eventually committed suicide after two attempts (as Terri sees it, another act of love).
Ed's first attempt at suicide was when Terri had left him. Ed had drunk rat poison, but was rushed to the hospital where he was saved. Ed's second attempt and success was shooting himself in the mouth. A person heard the shot from Ed's room and called the manager. Terri and Mel argued about whether she could be in the room with him when he died. Terri won and was with Ed as he died, as Terri put it, "he never came up out of it.
“Soon afterward Mel begins a story about an older couple and a drunk driver. The drunken driver was a teenager and pronounced dead at the scene. The elderly couple survived the car accident because they were wearing seat belts. Mel was called into the hospital one night just as he sat down to dinner. Once he got there he saw how badly the elderly couple had been injured. He said that they had "multiple fractures, internal injuries, hemorrhaging, contusions, and lacerations."
The couple were in casts and bandages from head to toe. Mel's point in telling the story was that when the elderly couple was moved into ICU, Intensive Care Unit, the husband was very upset.
Mel would visit the couple every day and when he put his ear to the husband's mouth hole he told him that he was upset, because he could not see his wife through his eye-holes. Mel would stray from the topic with more talk about Ed, his own personal thoughts on love, hatred toward his ex wife, and life as a knight.
Mel felt that even though you love a person, if something was to happen to them, the person still living will grieve but love again.
After finishing the second bottle of gin, they talk about going to dinner, but no one makes any moves to proceed with their plans.
The obvious symbol in "What We Talk about When We Talk about Love" is love. The story illustrates that love can be viewed in many different ways. Mel believes that real love is nothing less than spiritual love. Terri believed that even though Ed beat her up, that was his way of showing his love. Both Nick and Laura know what they think of love, but are not sure how to express their opinions.
The more important symbol in the story, though, is talking. Throughout the story, the characters attempt to put into words just what love means to them, and find themselves growing increasingly inarticulate as they attempt to do so.
This symbolism reaches a climax when Mel tells the story of the old couple, whose greatest connection is simply seeing each other; they only need eye contact to reestablish their connection, rather than proclamations to one another of how they feel.