There's something about reading short stories that really appeals to me. 1) They go by fast. 2) There's a whole cosmos in 10 pages. 3) Only the best can do them right.
I'd never read a Carver story, but I have seen Short Cuts (based on Carver stories). A couple of those are in this collection, notably "A Good Small Thing" (which you'll remember as the Lyle Lovett piece)-- breath-taking in its depth and breadth of emotion. Most of Carver's stories are about drinking and ex-wives, but they are not repetitive. They are shocking, brutal at times, always accessible, and heartbreakingly sad. The one that will stay with me forever is "Collectors", about a vacuum cleaner salesman and the "tenant" of a home. Something about the laconic nature of the story juxtaposed with its explosive, never-revealed undercurrent completely grabbed my attention.
The last few stories are new, and they are freakily parallel to his own life in his last few years: divorcing his long-separated wife, marrying his new wife, and dying of lung cancer. It makes you wonder about a lot of things.