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Raymond Clevie Carver, Jr. (May 25, 1938 – August 2, 1988) was an American short story writer and poet. Carver is considered a major American writer of the late 20th century and also a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s.

Life

Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregonmarker, a mill town on the Columbia River, and grew up in Yakima, Washingtonmarker. His father, a sawmill worker from Arkansasmarker, was a violent alcoholic. Carver's mother worked on and off as a waitress and a retail clerk. His one brother, James Franklin Carver, was born in 1943.

Carver was educated at local schools in Yakima, Washington. In his spare time he read mostly novels by Mickey Spillane or publications such as Sports Afield and Outdoor Life and hunted and fished with friends and family. After graduating from Yakima High School in 1956, Carver worked with his father at a sawmill in California. In June 1957, aged 19, he married 16-year-old Maryann Burk. She had just graduated from a private Episcopal school for girls. Their daughter, Christine La Rae, was born in December 1957. When their second child, a boy named Vance Lindsay, was born the next year, Carver was 20. Carver supported his family by working as a janitor, sawmill laborer, delivery man, and library assistant. During their marriage, Maryann worked as a waitress, salesperson, administrative assistant, and teacher.

Carver became interested in writing in California, where he had moved with his family because his mother-in-law had a home in Paradisemarker. Carver attended a creative-writing course taught by the novelist John Gardner, who became a mentor and had a major influence on Carver's life and career. Carver continued his studies first at Chico State Universitymarker and then at Humboldt State Collegemarker in Arcatamarker, California, where he studied with Richard Cortez Day and received his B.A. in 1963. During this period he was first published and served as editor for Toyon, the university literary magazine, in which he included several of his own pieces under pseudonyms. He later attended the Iowa Writers' Workshopmarker, at the University of Iowamarker, for one year. Maryann graduated from San Jose State College in 1970 and taught English at Los Altos High School until 1977.

In the mid-60s Carver and his family lived in Sacramentomarker, where he worked as a night custodian at Mercy Hospital. He sat in on classes at what was then Sacramento State Collegemarker including workshops with poet Dennis Schmitz. Carver's first book of poems, Near Klamath, was published in 1968 by the English Club of Sacramento State College.

With his appearance in the respected "Foley collection," the impending publication of Near Klamath, and the death of his father, 1967 was a landmark year. That was also the year that he moved his family to Palo Alto, Californiamarker, so that he could take a job as a textbook editor for Science Research Associates. He worked there until he was fired in 1970 for his inappropriate writing style. In the 1970s and 1980s as his writing career began to take off, Carver taught for several years at universities throughout the United States.

During the years of working in different jobs, rearing children, and trying to write, Carver started to drink heavily and stated that alcohol became such a problem in his life that he more or less gave up and took to full-time drinking. In the fall semester of 1973, Carver was a teacher in the Iowa Writers' Workshopmarker with John Cheever, but Carver stated that they did less teaching than drinking and almost no writing. The next year, after leaving Iowa City, Cheever went to a treatment center to attempt to overcome his alcoholism, but Carver continued drinking for three years. After being hospitalized three times (between June 1976 and February or March 1977), Carver began his 'second life' and stopped drinking on June 2, 1977, with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Carver met the poet Tess Gallagher at a writers' conference in Dallas, Texas in 1978. From May until August, 1979, Carver and Gallagher lived in a borrowed cabin near Port Angeles. In September, the two moved to Syracuse, where Gallagher had been appointed the Coordinator of the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University; Carver taught as a professor in the English department. He and Gallagher jointly purchased a house in Syracuse, at 832 Maryland Avenue. In ensuing years, the house became so popular that the couple had to hang a sign outside that read "Writers At Work" in order to be left alone. In 1982, Carver and first wife, Maryann, were divorced. He married Gallagher in 1988 in Renomarker, Nevadamarker. Six weeks later, on August 2, 1988, Carver died in Port Angelesmarker, Washingtonmarker, from lung cancer at the age of 50. In the same year, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Raymond Carver is buried at Ocean View Cemetery in Port Angelesmarker, WA. The inscription on his grave reads:

LATE FRAGMENT

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.

His poem Gravy is also inscribed.

As Carver's will directed, Tess Gallagher assumed the management of his literary estate.

In 2001 the novelist Chuck Kinder published Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale, a roman à clef of his friendship with Carver in the 1970s. In 2006 Maryann Burk Carver wrote a memoir of her years with Carver: What It Used To Be Like; A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver.

Writing

Carver's career was dedicated to short stories and poetry. He described himself as "inclined toward brevity and intensity" and "hooked on writing short stories" (in the foreword of Where I'm Calling From, a collection published in 1988 and a recipient of an honorable mention in the 2006 New York Times article citing the best works of fiction of the previous 25 years). Another stated reason for his brevity was "that the story [or poem] can be written and read in one sitting." This was not simply a preference but, particularly at the beginning of his career, a practical consideration as he juggled writing with work. His subject matter was often focused on blue-collar experience, and was clearly reflective of his own life. The same could probably be said of the recurring theme of alcoholism and recovery.

Carver's writing style and themes are often identified with Ernest Hemingway, Anton Chekhov, and Franz Kafka. Carver also referred to Isaac Babel, Frank O'Connor, and V. S. Pritchett as influences. Chekhov, however, seems the greatest influence, motivating him to write Errand, one of his final stories, about the Russian writer's final hours.

Minimalism is generally seen as one of the hallmarks of Carver's work. His editor at Esquire magazine, Gordon Lish, was instrumental in shaping Carver's prose in this direction - where his earlier tutor John Gardner had advised Carver to use fifteen words instead of twenty-five, Gordon Lish instructed Carver to use five in place of fifteen. Objecting to the "surgical amputation and transplantation" of Lish's heavy editing, Carver eventually broke with him. During this time, Carver also submitted poetry to James Dickey, then poetry editor of Esquire. His style has also been described as Dirty realism, which connected him with a group of writers in the 1970s and 1980s that included Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff -- two writers Carver was closely acquainted with -- as well as Ann Beattie and Jayne Anne Phillips. With the exception of Beattie, who wrote about upper-middle class people, these were writers who focused on sadness and loss in the everyday lives of ordinary people -- often lower-middle class or isolated and marginalized people -- who represent Henry David Thoreau's idea of living lives of "quiet desperation."

His first published story appeared in 1960, titled "The Furious Seasons." More florid than his later work, the story strongly bore the influence of William Faulkner. "Furious Seasons" was later used as a title for a collection of stories published by Capra Press, and can now be found in recent collections No Heroics, Please and Call If You Need Me.

His first collection, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, was first published in 1976; the title story had appeared in the Best American Short Stories 1967 collection. The collection itself was shortlisted for the National Book Award, though it sold fewer than 5,000 copies that year.

Carver was nominated again in 1984 for his third major-press collection, Cathedral, the volume generally perceived as his best. Included in the collection are the award-winning stories "A Small, Good Thing", and "Where I'm Calling From". John Updike selected the latter for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century. For his part, Carver saw Cathedral as a watershed in his career, in its shift towards a more optimistic and confidently poetic style.

His final (incomplete) collection of seven stories, titled Elephant in Britain (included in "Where I'm Calling From") was composed in the five years before his death. The nature of these stories, especially "Errand", have led to some speculation that Carver was preparing to write a novel. Only one piece of this work has survived - the unpromising fragment "The Augustine Notebooks," printed in No Heroics, Please.

Tess Gallagher published five Carver stories posthumously in Call If You Need Me; one of the stories ("Kindling") won an O. Henry Award in 1999. Throughout his lifetime Carver won six O. Henry Awards: the winning stories were "Are These Actual Miles" (originally titled "What is it?") (1972), "Put Yourself in My Shoes" (1974), "Are You A Doctor?" (1975), "A Small, Good Thing" (1983), and "Errand" (1988).

Tess Gallagher fought with Knopf for permission to republish the stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love as they were originally written by Carver, as opposed to the heavily-edited (or "heavy edits") and altered versions that appeared in 1981 under the editorship of Gordon Lish. The book, entitled 'Beginners', was released in hardback on October 1st 2009 in Great Britain. 'Beginners' also appears in a new Library of America edition collecting all of Carver's short fiction.

Works

Fiction

Collections



Compilations



Poetry

Collections

  • Near Klamath (1968)
  • Winter Insomnia (1970)
  • At Night The Salmon Move (1976)
  • Where Water Comes Together With Other Water (1985)
  • Ultramarine (1986)
  • A New Path To The Waterfall (1989)


Compilations

  • In a Marine Light: Selected Poems (1988)
  • All of Us: The Collected Poems (1996)


Screenplays

  • Dostoevsky (1985, with Tess Gallagher)


Essays, poems, stories (uncollected works)

  • Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories (1983)
  • No Heroics, Please (1992)
  • Call if You Need Me (2000)
  • Tell It Straight (2003)


These books gather otherwise uncollected works. Fires covers Carver's career during the period 1966–82. The latter volumes were published posthumously, and include early fiction, essays, and reviews of other authors. Call if You Need Me was identical to No Heroics, Please apart from the replacement of poetry in the latter with new stories, two found in Carver's desk by his last partner, Tess Gallagher and three found in his archives by scholar William Stull. Tell It Straight is limited to an edition of 20 artist books, and includes three previously unpublished poems left out of At Night the Salmon Move. 10 copies were given to Tess Gallagher, the other 10 were split amongst editors Bill Stull and Maureen Carroll - and the book's designer and illustrator, Andy Pirie.

Films and theatre



Music

  • The 1989 album So Much Water So Close to Home by Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly, includes a track "Everything's Turning to White" which is a re-telling of Carver's story So Much Water So Close to Home.
  • The 2005 album Pocket Revolution by dEUS includes a song titled "What We Talk About (When We Talk About Love)".


Books and articles about Carver

The novel Name Your Poison: A Max Mitchum Mystery, by Lucas Stensland, was a comical attempt by the author to combine the styles of "the two Raymonds": Carver and Chandler. The book was intended to be a tribute.

References

  1. What It Used To Be Like: A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver, St. Martin's Press (July 11, 2006)
  2. The Carver Chronicles
  3. The Real Carver: Expansive or Minimal?


External links




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