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Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (1976) was the first major-press short-story collection by American writer Raymond Carver. Described by contemporary critics as a foundational text of Minimalist fiction, its stories offered an incise and influential account of segregation and disenchantment in mid-century American suburbia.[1]

Publication history[edit]

Unlike his later collections, the stories collected in Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? were written during a period Carver termed his 'first life' or 'Bad Raymond days', prior to his near-death from alcoholism and subsequent sobriety. The earliest compositions date from around 1960, the time of his study under John Gardner at Chico State's 'English 20A, Creative Writing'.[2] In the decade and a half following, Carver struggled to make space for bursts of creativity between teaching jobs and raising his two young children, and later, near-constant drinking. The compositions of Will You Please... can be grouped roughly into the following periods:

  • 1960-1 - 'The Father'
  • 1960-3 - 'The Ducks', 'What Do You Do in San Francisco?'
  • 1964 - 'Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?', 'The Student's Wife', 'Sixty Acres'
  • 1967 - 'How About This?', 'Signals', 'Jerry and Molly and Sam'
  • 1970 - 'Neighbors', 'Fat', 'Night School', 'The Idea', 'Why, Honey?' 'Nobody Said Anything', 'Are You a Doctor?'
  • 1971 - 'What Is It?' ('Are These Actual Miles?'), 'What's In Alaska?', 'Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarettes', 'They're Not Your Husband', 'Put Yourself in My Shoes'
  • 1974 - 'Collectors'


Although several of the stories had appeared previously in prominent publications (the 'Foley Collection' had published the story 'Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?' in 1967 and Esquire had accepted 'Neighbors' in 1971), as the first author to be collected in the new McGraw-Hill imprint for fiction, this marked the first major commercial success of Carver's career.[3] The title for the collection was originally proposed by Frederic W. Hills, editor at McGraw-Hill, as Put Yourself in My Shoes,[4] and Gordon Lish, Carver's editor, agreed.[5] However, after polling friends, Carver made a stand for the eventual title, under which Lish selected 22 of the more than 30 Carver had published to that date.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Following the success of experimental literary works by short story writers such as John Barth and Donald Barthelme in the early 1970's, Will You Please... was noted for its flat, understated incision in contemporary reviews. Publishers Weekly included in its first issue of 1976 a notice of the new collection, calling it 'Downbeat but perceptive writing about the inarticulate worlds of Americans...'[7]. Later critical analysis orientated the collection in relation to the later editing conflicts with Gordon Lish in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981), and the 'expansiveness' of Cathedral (1983). Bethea's analysis of the collection focuses on the unreliability of the narrators in Will You Please..., finding humour and frought realism in their dramas.[8] The collection was chosen as one of five finalists for the 1977 National Book Award.

  1. ^ Wood, Gaby (27 September 2009). "Raymond Carver: The Kindest Cut". Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Sklenicka. p. 65.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Sklenicka, Carol (2010). Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life. New York, London: Scribner. pp. 272–3. ISBN 9780743262453. 
  4. ^ Sklenicka. p. 272.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Sklenicka. p. 281.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Sklenicka. p. 281.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Publishers Weekly. 5 Jan, 1976.  Check date values in: |date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Bethea, Arthur F. (2001). Technique and Sensibility in the Fiction and Poetry of Raymond Carver. New York: Routledge. pp. 7–40. ISBN 0815340400.