Raymond Carver

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Raymond Carver
Raymond Carver.jpg
Born Raymond Clevie Carver, Jr.
(1938-05-25)May 25, 1938
Clatskanie, Oregon, United States
Died August 2, 1988(1988-08-02) (aged 50)
Port Angeles, Washington, United States
Occupation Writer
Nationality United States
Period 1958–1988
Literary movement Minimalism, Dirty realism

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

Early life[edit]

Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, a mill town on the Columbia River, and grew up in Yakima, Washington.[1] His father, a skilled sawmill worker from Arkansas, was a fisherman and a heavy drinker. 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, who 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 high school English teacher.

Writing career[edit]

Carver became interested in writing in California, where he had moved with his family because his mother-in-law had a home in Paradise. 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. His first published story, "The Furious Seasons", appeared in 1961. 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 the recent collections, No Heroics, Please and Call If You Need Me.[citation needed]

Carver continued his studies first at Chico State University and then at Humboldt State College in Arcata, 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 published several of his own pieces under pseudonyms. He attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop during the 1963-1964 academic year; homesick for California and unable to fully acclimate to the program's upper middle class milieu, he completed twelve credits out of the thirty required for a M.A. degree. Although Carver was awarded a fellowship for a second year of study from program director Paul Engle after Maryann Carver personally interceded and compared her husband's plight to Tennessee Williams' deleterious experience in the program three decades earlier, Carver nonetheless elected to leave the program at the end of the semester. Maryann— who postponed completing her education to support her husband's educational and literary endeavors —eventually graduated from San Jose State College in 1970 and taught English at Los Altos High School until 1977.

In the mid-1960s Carver and his family lived in Sacramento, California, where he briefly worked at a bookstore before taking a position as a night custodian at Mercy Hospital. He did all of the janitorial work in the first hour and then wrote at the hospital through the rest of the night. He sat in on classes at what was then Sacramento State College, including workshops with poet Dennis Schmitz. Carver and Schmitz soon became friends, and Carver's first book of poems, Near Klamath, was later written and published under Schmitz's guidance.

With the appearance of "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" in Martha Foley's annual Best American Short Stories anthology and the impending publication of Near Klamath by the English Club of Sacramento State College, 1967 was a landmark year for Carver. He briefly enrolled in the library science graduate program at the University of Iowa that summer but returned to California following the death of his father. Shortly thereafter, the Carvers relocated to Palo Alto, California, so he could take his first white-collar job at Science Research Associates (a subsidiary of IBM), where he worked intermittently as a textbook editor and public relations director through 1970. Following a 1968 sojourn to Israel, the Carvers relocated to San Jose, California; as Maryann finished her undergraduate degree, he would remain enrolled in the library science program at San Jose State through the end of 1969, failing once again to take a degree. Nevertheless, he established vital literary connections with Gordon Lish and the poet/publisher George Hitchcock during this period.

After the publication of "Neighbors" in the June 1971 issue of Esquire at the instigation of Lish (now ensconced as the magazine's fiction editor), Carver (by now a resident of Sunnyvale, California) began to teach as a visiting artist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received a Stegner Fellowship to study in the non-degree graduate creative writing program at Stanford University during the 1972-1973 term, where he cultivated friendships with contemporaneous fellows Chuck Kinder, Max Crawford, and William Kittredge. The fellowship enabled the Carvers to buy a house in Cupertino, California; in addition to his position at Santa Cruz, he took on another teaching job at the University of California, Berkeley that year.

His first short story collection, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, was published in 1976. The collection itself was shortlisted for the National Book Award, though it sold fewer than 5,000 copies that year.[citation needed]

During his years of working different jobs, rearing children, and trying to write, Carver started to drink heavily.[1] By his own admission, eventually he more or less gave up writing and took to full-time drinking. In the fall semester of 1973, Carver was a visiting lecturer in the Iowa Writers' Workshop 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.[1] Carver—who continued to smoke marijuana and experimented with cocaine at the behest of Jay McInerney during a 1980 visit to New York City—believed he would have died of alcoholism at the age of 40 if he hadn't found a way to stop drinking.[2]

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.[3]

Personal life and death[edit]

Decline of first marriage[edit]

The following excerpt from Scott Driscoll's review[4] of Maryann Burk Carver's 2006 memoir[5] describes the decline of Maryann and Raymond's marriage.

The fall began with Ray's trip to Missoula, Mont., in '72 to fish with friend and literary helpmate Bill Kittredge. That summer Ray fell in love with Diane Cecily, an editor at the University of Montana, whom he met at Kittredge's birthday party. "That's when the serious drinking began. It broke my heart and hurt the children. It changed everything.
"By fall of '74," says Carver, "he was more dead than alive. I had to drop out of the Ph.D. program so I could get him cleaned up and drive him to his classes." Over the next several years, she suffered physical abuse at the hands of Raymond Carver. Friends urged her to leave him.
"But I couldn't. I really wanted to hang in there for the long haul. I thought I could outlast the drinking. I'd do anything it took. I loved Ray, first, last and always."
Carver describes, without a trace of rancor, what finally put her over the edge. In the fall of '78, with a new teaching position at the University of Texas, El Paso, Ray started seeing Tess Gallagher, a writer from Port Angeles who would become his muse and wife near the end of his life. "It was like a contretemps. He tried to call me to talk about where we were. I missed the calls. He knew he was about to invite Tess to Thanksgiving." So he wrote a letter instead.
"I thought, I've gone through all those years fighting to keep it all balanced. Here it was, coming at me again, the same thing. I had to get on with my own life. But I never fell out of love with him."

Second marriage[edit]

Carver met the poet Tess Gallagher at a writers' conference in Dallas, Texas in November, 1977. Beginning in January, 1979, Carver and Gallagher lived together in El Paso, Texas, in a borrowed cabin near Port Angeles, in western Washington state, and in Tucson, Arizona. In 1980, 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.[6] He married Gallagher in 1988 in Reno, Nevada. Six weeks later, on June 2, 1988, Carver died in Port Angeles, Washington, from lung cancer at the age of 50. In the same year, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

In December 2006, Gallagher published an essay in The Sun Magazine, titled "Instead of Dying", about alcoholism and Carver's having maintained his sobriety.[7] The essay is an adaptation of a talk she initially delivered at the Welsh Academy's Academi Intoxication Conference in 2006. The first lines read: "Instead of dying from alcohol, Raymond Carver, chose to live. I would meet him five months after this choice, so I never knew the Ray who drank, except by report and through the characters and actions of his stories and poems."[8]

Death[edit]

Carver is buried at Ocean View Cemetery in Port Angeles. The inscription on his tombstone 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.[1]

Memorials[edit]

In Carver's birth town of Clatskanie, Oregon a memorial park and statue were constructed in the late 2000s spearheaded by the local Friends of the Library, using mostly local donations. Tess Gallagher was present at the dedication. It is located in the old town on the corner of Lillich and Nehalem Streets, across from the library. A block away, the building where Raymond Carver was born still stands. There is a plaque of Carver in the foyer.[citation needed]

Raymond Carver Memorial in Clatskanie, Oregon. Located at Nehalem and Lillich Streets in old town...

Legacy and posthumous publications[edit]

In 2001, the novelist Chuck Kinder published Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale, a roman à clef about 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. An unauthorized biography, Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life by Carol Sklenicka, published by Scribner in 2009, was named one of the Best Ten Books of that year by The New York Times Book Review.[9] Carver's widow refused to engage with Sklenica.[10]

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.[citation needed] Only one piece of this work has survived - the fragment "The Augustine Notebooks", printed in No Heroics, Please.[citation needed]

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. In his lifetime Carver won five O. Henry Awards; these 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 and altered versions that appeared in 1981 under the editorship of Gordon Lish.[11][12] The book, entitled Beginners,[13] was released in hardback on October 1, 2009 in Great Britain.[14] Beginners also appears in a new Library of America edition collecting all of Carver's short fiction.

Literary characteristics[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Minimalism is generally seen as one of the hallmarks of Carver's work. His editor at Esquire, 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, 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.[15] During this time, Carver also submitted poetry to James Dickey, then poetry editor of Esquire.

Carver's 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 and Tobias Wolff (two writers with whom Carver was closely acquainted), as well as others such as Ann Beattie, Frederick Barthelme, 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.

Works[edit]

Fiction[edit]

Collections[edit]

Compilations[edit]

  • Where I'm Calling From (1988)
  • Short Cuts: Selected Stories (1993) - published to accompany Robert Altman film Short Cuts
  • Collected Stories (2009) - complete short fiction including Beginners

Poetry[edit]

Collections[edit]

  • Near Klamath (1968)
  • Winter Insomnia (1970)
  • At Night The Salmon Move (1976)
  • Fires (1983)
  • Where Water Comes Together With Other Water (1985)
  • Ultramarine (1986)
  • A New Path To The Waterfall (1989)
  • Gravy (Unknown year)

Compilations[edit]

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

Screenplays[edit]

  • Dostoevsky (1985, with Tess Gallagher)

Films and theatre adaptations[edit]

  • Short Cuts directed by Robert Altman (1993), based on nine Carver short stories and a poem
  • Everything Goes directed by Andrew Kotatko (2004), starring Hugo Weaving and Abbie Cornish, based on Carver's short story "Why Don't You Dance?"
  • Jindabyne directed by Ray Lawrence (2006), based on Carver's short story "So Much Water So Close to Home"
  • Everything Must Go directed by Dan Rush (2010), and starring Will Ferrell, based on Carver's short story "Why Don't You Dance?"
  • What's In Alaska? directed by James Arrabito
  • Carver a production directed by William Gaskill at London's Arcola Theatre in 1995, adapted from five Carver short stories including "What's In Alaska?", "Put Yourself in My Shoes" and "Intimacy"
  • Studentova žena (Croatian) directed by Goran Kovač, based on "The Student's Wife"
  • After the Denim directed by Gregory D. Goyins
  • Carousel (Croatian) directed by Toma Zidić, inspired by "Ashtray"
  • Men Who Don't Work directed by Alexander Atkins and Andrew Franks, inspired by "What Do You Do in San Francisco?"

Musical adaptions[edit]

Books and articles about Carver[edit]

  • Carver, Maryann Burk (2006). What It Used to Be Like; A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-33258-0. 
  • Nesset, Kirk (1995). Stories Of Raymond Carver: A Critical Study. Ohio University Press. ISBN 0-8214-1100-4. 
  • Charles McGrath (October 28, 2007). "I, Editor Author". Week in Review, New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  • Pieters, Jesús (2004). El silencio de lo real: sentido, comprensión e interpretación en la narrativa de Raymond Carver. Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana. ISBN 978-980-01-1219-9. 
  • Stull, William L. and Gentry, Marshall Bruce (editors) (1990). Conversations With Raymond Carver (Literary Conversations Series). University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 0-87805-449-9. 
  • Stull, William L. and Carroll, Maureen P. (editors) (1993). Remembering Ray: A Composite Biography of Raymond Carver. Capra Press. ISBN 0-88496-370-5. 
  • Runyon, Randolph Paul (1994). Reading Raymond Carver. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-2631-2. 
  • Kleppe, Sandra Lee and Miltner, Robert (editors) (2008). New Paths to Raymond Carver; Critical Essays on His Life, Fiction, and Poetry. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-724-5. 
  • Halpert, Sam (1995). Raymond Carver. An Oral Biography. University of Iowa Press. ISBN 0-87745-502-3. 
  • Sklenicka, Carol (Nov 2009). Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life. Scribner. ISBN 978-0-7432-6245-3. 
  • Michaka, Stéphane (2013). Scissors : a novel. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-3855-3749-0. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Sklenicka, Carol. Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life. New York: Scribner, 2009
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 22, 1993). "Short Cuts". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-01-05. 
  3. ^ "Prose as Architecture: Two Interviews with Raymond Carver". Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  4. ^ SCOTT DRISCOLL, SPECIAL TO THE P-I (July 20, 2006). "A life spent in love with Raymond Carver is captured in memoir's intimate moments". Seattle pi. 
  5. ^ Carver, Maryann Burk (2006). What It Used to Be Like; A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-33258-0. 
  6. ^ What It Used To Be Like: A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver, St. Martin's Press (July 11, 2006)
  7. ^ Tess Gallagher (December 2006). "Instead of Dying". Sun Magazine (372). 
  8. ^ Tess Gallagher by Tim Crosby (2006). Instead of Dying. Academi Intoxication Conference. 
  9. ^ King, Steven. "Raymond Carver’s Life and Stories", The New York Times, Nov. 19, 2009
  10. ^ David Wiegand, "Serendipitous stay led writer to Raymond Carver", San Francisco Chronicle, December 19, 2009
  11. ^ The Real Carver: Expansive or Minimal?
  12. ^ For further details of the extent of the original editing, see Blake Morrison, [1] and ‘Carved up, or kindly cut?’ by James Ley, [2]
  13. ^ And re-edited by William Stull and Maureen Carroll
  14. ^ Beginners, London, Jonathan Cape, 2009
  15. ^ The Carver Chronicles For more on Lish's editing of Carver at Esquire, see Carol Polsgrove, It Wasn't Pretty, Folks, But Didn't We Have Fun? Esquire in the Sixties (1995), pp. 241-243.

External links[edit]