Posted in Short Stories

Raymond Carver: The Bath

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 6

The cake would be ready Monday morning, in plenty of time for the party Monday afternoon. This was all the baker was willing to say. No pleasantries, just this small exchange, the barest information, nothing that was not necessary.

This quotation from Raymond Carver’s short story “The Bath” could describe all of Carver’s stories – well, at least the three that I’ve read as of now.

A mother orders a cake for her eight year-old son’s birthday prior to her son being hit by a car. While their son is in a possible coma, the mother and father take turns going home. Both try to take a bath to calm themselves down only to be interrupted by the baker on the telephone demanding they pick up the cake.

Carver lets the reader feel a sense of dread and sadness from the parents. But how is the reader suppose to feel about the baker? In some ways, because we know what’s going on, it’s easy to feel angry at the baker. But then because he doesn’t know what’s going on, I couldn’t help but find something humorous in the whole situation. These conflicting feelings are both jarring and extremely satisfying for a story that doesn’t have any resolution.

This story is included in Raymond Carver’s collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories. I read it when I selected the Two of Diamonds for Week 7 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. I’ve designated the Two’s as wild cards so I decided to read a Raymond Carver story recommended to me by Jason at There Will Come Soft Rains. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

6 thoughts on “Raymond Carver: The Bath

  1. Certainly sounds like an odd story. I’m glad to have Jason back doing DMI again too, he’s produced a flurry of excellent posts already and you’re also reminds me I should she what’s latest over at There Will Come Soft Rains.

    1. Yes, it is good to have Jason back! And I enjoyed this story, too. For my next wild card I’m planning on reading a Florida story from Lauren Groff. I think it will be At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners.

      1. I loved Lauren Groff’s “Florida” collection of stories. Several 5-star stories in that book! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  2. I’m slightly confused. Is this not the same story as “A Small Good Thing”? I need to look further into this. Anyways, this is an amazing story and perfectly illustrates Carvers mastery of the short-story form. His minimalist and neutralized style is so iconic and inimitable. Another great review! Keep em’ comin.’ 🙂

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