How Minimal Is Minimalism?
How minimal is the fiction we call minimalist? If we spend much time and thought on the question we end up, like it or not, with a theory of minimalism. We also need to define our terms if we are to understand one another. A look at contrasting interpretations of minimalism may help to illustrate the difficulty before we attempt to answer the pertinent questions.
Many individuals familiar with art movements identify minimalism with such properties as primary forms, hard edges, precision, and a reaction against the romanticism of abstract expressionism--features, I might add, that we fi hnd in most stories by Raymond Carver. And yet Carver associated the expression with smallness of vision and smallness of execution. He was offended when praised as a minimalist. Here are his thoughts on the topic as he talks with Mona Simpson of the Paris Review:
In a review of the last book, somebody called me a "minimalist" writer. The reviewer meant it as a compliment. But I didn't like it. There's something about that smacks of smallness of vision and execution that I don't like.
That is as clear as you can put it. At the same time, for me, the word suggests a density that encompasses more than is obvious, the evidence of things present but unseen or things seen but not there, the universe in a grain of sand.
In spite of the differences, most people who think about minimalism have a general notion of what it is because of the family resemblances that overlap and crisscross minimalist fiction. If we call the fiction we are reading minimalist, we do so because it resembles other works going by that name. One of the shared features most often encountered is the "truncated plot" consisting of events and empty spaces that require completion for readers who prefer solidity