Hurley Winkler and exactitude in Raymond Carver’s “Are These Actual Miles?”

Raymond Carver’s short story “Are These Actual Miles?” follows the journey of Toni, an independent woman with all the power as she sells a car, as her husband, Leo, sits at home, trying to configure his wife’s progress throughout the night. Carver tells the story with a slant toward Leo’s point of view, heavily expressing Leo’s rough anticipation toward Toni’s phone calls in regards to her progress, and long, ranting bits of narration through Leo’s train of thought, which give light into Leo’s anxieties. Leo’s nerves revolve around his lack of money and the bold gestures he and his wife have taken in the past to attempt to patch that hole—Carver’s narration delves into Leo’s neurotic listing of the material things he shares with Toni. This sort of obsessive-compulsive list on Leo’s behalf occurs the moment Toni leaves the house and Leo pours himself a drink. Carver’s insistent narrative slant toward Leo allows the anxieties between this couple to grow more heavily as the story progresses, and with more relentlessness on Carver’s behalf. Carver utilizes Leo’s point of view to juxtapose Toni with their car they are trying to sell, ending with Leo’s memories of the car and of Toni as he traces the “roads” of her stretch marks on her hip as they lie in bed.

In his book Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino writes a chapter on “Exactitude,” which I find to be the most compelling section of his book. Calvino expresses the importance of preciseness in literature, that the writing he prefers is that which he can edit and explore from sentence to sentence until the moment when he finds satisfaction in his words. Furthermore, Calvino states with great distress how much it bothers him that “…language is always used in a random, approximate, careless manner” (Calvino 56).

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