Where I’m Calling From: Raymond Carver Cliché Town

The New York Times‘ Paper Cuts blog has an item today by Jennifer Schuessler headlined “What We Search for When We Search for Books About Running.”

What’s strange about the piece is that it ends with an apology to a semi-anonymous reader called “Jacob S.” who complained the day before about editors and writers abusing the title of Raymond Carver’s 1981 short-story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

In his comment, Mr. S. wrote:

I know [Haruki] Murakami could be blamed for the title of this blog post, but can we institute some sort of embargo against invoking the title of that Raymond Carver story (collection)? It’s used far too often on numerous lit. blogs around the interwebs. Any originality or ingenuity once shown by appropriating that clever phrase has been painfully drained into nothing. Please no more.

Setting aside Mr. S.’s use of “interwebs,” itself a “meh” blogger cliché (“said” phrase was amusing once, but now “not so much“). it’s not just literary blogs that use Mr. Carver’s—or, more like, Gordon Lish‘s—phrase. These examples come from The New York Times:

What We Talk About When We Talk About Lust, August 23, 1998.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Editing, July 31, 2005.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Brands, November 24, 2006.

When We Talk About Editing, October 17, 2007.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Art, December 23, 2007.

Maybe Mr. S. is right. When editors decide to class up their headlines with references to Mr. Carver’s oeuvre, maybe they should think of his other collection, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, and not talk so much when they talk about something.