What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

by: Raymond Carver

Mel McGinnis

The first thing we learn about Mel McGinnis is that he’s a cardiologist—a heart doctor. Of the four characters in the story, Mel, by virtue of his profession, would seem to be the one most likely to have some insight into matters of the heart. Indeed, he talks more than anyone else about love and has the strongest opinions. Yet despite the fact that Mel talks a lot, he doesn’t seem to know more than anyone else about love. As he keeps drinking and talking, his strong statements blur into confusing ramblings that don’t seem to make much of a point. He knows the story about the elderly couple is important, but he can’t explain exactly why. He knows his thoughts about past and future loves are meaningful, but the way he describes them makes him sound confused and nonsensical. And his apparent desire to kill his ex-wife with swarms of bees suggests that, far from being an expert on love, Mel knows absolutely nothing about it.