William Giraldi at Commonweal:
“To give the mundane its beautiful due” is how Updike described his own literary program, and in Carver the mundane is honed to ominous implication. You don’t often see Carver’s name hitched to Whitman’s, but consider the Whitmanian exuberance of the everyday: almost nothing is too insignificant to escape Whitman’s communion. Carver’s socially insignificant people, and the insignificant artifacts of their lives, are not insignificant to him. Wholly unlike Whitman, though, Carver’s literary program takes no stock of the sublime. His language achieves a demotic splendor, a conversational artfulness—always a grand talker, Carver wrote stories in an eminently spoken register; his art is as oral as Whitman’s—but his language cannot connect with that junction where this world rubs against the other. Though Carver’s characters often pine for exalted things, they cannot articulate their pining. The oppressive immediacy of their lives prevents such articulation. Transcendence is a privilege Carver’s people have perhaps heard rumor of but have not been granted access to.