| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Raymond Carver’s characters have been called
diminished and lost. Carver’s study in character represents a cold look at the
complicated inner lives of the working poor in the United States during the
1970s and 1980s: at any time, anyone might lose everything; not only material
positions are lost but also trust, love, and truth. Carver may occasionally be
naturalistic, but he is never nostalgic or romantic about life near the edge.
lived much of his life in the same desperate straits as his characters. His
father was a laborer with grand dreams and a deadly attraction to alcohol.
Carver himself was married and raising two children before his twentieth
birthday. He worked a variety of jobs that would never be presented as a career
path on a résumé—picking tulips, pumping gas, sweeping up, delivering packages.
He recalled, “Once I even considered, for a few minutes anyway—the job
application form there in front of me—becoming a bill collector!” He and his
wife declared bankruptcy several times. He inherited his father’s drinking
1958 with two small children, he and his wife moved to Chico, California. They
borrowed $125 from the druggist who employed Carver as a delivery man. With
that money, Carver enrolled in Chico State and took his first writing class
from John Gardner, at that time a young, unknown, and unpublished novelist.
Encouraged by Gardner and later by the editor Gordon Lish, Carver began to take
himself seriously as a writer. He began to publish regularly in little
magazines, but not until 1968 did his first book, a collection of poems,
appear, in a limited edition. Eight years later his first collection of
stories, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? was published. Readers did not
realize that Carver had stopped writing a couple of years before the book’s
June 1977 Carver’s life changed drastically. He stopped drinking, he was
awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and he met the poet and short-story writer
Tess Gallagher, who was to become his companion and eventually his second wife.
the consternation of many editors, Carver was a rewriter of his own work. At
least one of his stories has appeared with as many as three different titles
and a slight rewriting at each publication. In an essay called “On Rewriting”
he writes, “I like to mess with my stories. I’d rather tinker with a story after
writing it, and then tinker some more, changing this, changing that, than have
to write the story in the first place.” Even his successful stories were not
exempted from his rewriting. “The Bath,” a widely praised story from What We
Talk About When We Talk About Love and winner of the Carlos Fuentes Fiction
Award, reappeared in a much longer form in Cathedral as “A Small, Good Thing.”
Writing in the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley said, “The first version is
beautifully crafted and admirably concise, but lacking in genuine compassion;
the mysterious caller is not so much a human being as a mere voice, malign and
characterless. But in the second version that voice becomes a person, one whose
own losses are, in different ways, as crippling and heartbreaking as the one
suffered by the grieving parents.” Although many do not agree with Yardley, it
was obvious that Carver found a different kind of strength in Cathedral.
his death from lung cancer in 1988 at the age of fifty, Carver continued to
write poems and stories. His last book was a collection of poems called A New
Path to the Waterfall.
In the Heath Anthology
A Small, Good Thing
Will You Please be Quiet, Please?
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
Fires: Essays, Poems, and Stories, 1966-1982
Dostoevsky: The Screenplay
Where Water Comes Together With Other Water
Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories
A New Path To The Waterfall
No Heroics, Please: Uncollected Writings
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Featured Author: Raymond Carver
A compilation of all Carver-related New York Times pieces.
A biography, selected bibliography, and links.
The Minimalist Styles of Raymond Carver and Suzanne Vega
A scholarly essay by Wendy Chapman.
Three New Raymond Carver Stories Discovered
A Salon.com article from 1999.
Two Interviews with Raymond Carver
Stories Don't Come Out of Thin Air conducted by Claude Grimal and I'm Sort of Their Father conducted by Silvia Del Pozzo.
Tess Gallagher and Raymond Carver, Soul Barnacles: On the Literature of a Relationship, 2000
Sam Halpert, Raymond Carver: an oral biography, 1995
Adam Meyer, Raymond Carver (Twayne's United States Authors Series, No 633), 1995
Kirk Nesset, The Stories of Raymond Carver : A Critical Study, 1995
Randolph Paul Runyon and Stephen Dobyns, Reading Raymond Carver, 1992
William L. Stull and Maureen P. Carroll, eds., Remembering Ray, 1993