PAL: Perspectives in American Literature - A Research and Reference Guide - An Ongoing Project

© Paul P. Reuben

Chapter 10: Raymond Carver (1938-1988)

Page Links: | Primary Works | Selected Bibliography 1980-Present | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |

| A Brief Biography |

Site Links: | Chap. 10: Index | Alphabetical List | Table Of Contents | Home Page | November 3, 2011

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Source:
Bold Type: Poems by RC

Primary Works

Fiction: Put Yourself in My Shoes, 1974; Will you Please Be Quiet, Please?, 1976; Furious Seasons and Other Stories, 1977; What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, 1981; The Pheasant, 1982; Cathedral, 1983; If It Please You, 1984; The Stories of Raymond Carver, 1985; My Father's Life, 1986; Those Days: Early Writings by Raymond Carver, 1987; Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories, 1988; Elephant and Other Stories, 1988; Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose, 2001.

Poetry: Near Klamath, 1968; Winter Insomnia, 1970; At Night the Salmon Move, 1976; Two Poems ["The Baker" and "Louise"], 1982; Where Water Comes Together with Other Water, 1985; Ultramarine, 1986; Two Poems ["Reaching" and "Soda Crackers"], 1986; In a Marine Light: Selected Poems, 1987; A New Path to the Waterfall, 1989.

Editor: The Best American Short Stories 1986 (with Shannon Ravenel); American Short Story Masterpieces (Tom Jenks), 1987.

Screenplay: Dostoevsky: A Screenplay (with Tess Gallagher), 1985.

Selected Bibliography 1980-Present

Amir, Ayala. The Visual Poetics of Raymond Carver. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2010.

Campbell, Ewing. Raymond Carver: a study of the short fiction. NY: Twayne, 1992. PS3553 .A7894 Z58

Gentry, Marshall B., and William Stull. eds. Conversations with Raymond Carver. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1990.

Hallett, Cynthia W. Minimalism & the Short Story: Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, and Mary Robison. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999.

Halpert, Sam. Raymond Carver: An Oral Biography. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1995.

Lohafer, Susan. Reading for Storyness: Preclosure Theory, Empirical Poetics and Culture in the Short Story. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2003.

McSweeney, Kerry. The Realist Short Story of the Powerful Glimpse: Chekhov to Carver. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 2007.

Meyer, Adam. Raymond Carver. NY: Twayne, 1995. PS3553 .A7894 Z77

Nesset, Kirk. The Stories of Raymond Carver: A Critical Survey. Athens: Ohio UP, 1995.

Runyon, Randolph. Reading Raymond Carver. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1992.

Saltzman, Arthur M. Understanding Raymond Carver. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1988.

Zhou, Jingqiong. Raymond Carver's Short Fiction in the History of Black Humor. NY: Peter Lang, 2006.

| Top |Raymond Carver (1938-1988): A Brief Biography

A Student Project by Jan Paystrup   

Raymond Carver was a man who lived it all and wrote it all - youthful marriage, menial labor jobs, dirt poor existence, alcoholism, near death experiences, recovery, sobriety, new love and new life. He was born in Clatskanie, Oregon on May 25, 1938 and moved to Yakima, Washington when he was three years old. He graduated from Yakima High School in 1956 and worked in a sawmill with his father. The following year, 1957, Raymond married his sixteen-year-old high school sweetheart, Maryann Burk. He worked as a pharmacy deliveryman while taking classes at Yakima Community College. It was during this time that he received his first copy of Poetry magazine. His first child, Christine LaRae, was born at the end of that year. He has claimed that his children were the "biggest single influence" in his writing (Fires, title essay). He wrote about Christine's birth in "My Father's Life" (1986).

A major turning point for Raymond came the following year when he moved his young family to Chico, California. Here, his second child, Vance Lindsay, was born. He met and was mentored by his creative writing teacher, John Gardner, while a part-time student at Chico State College. In 1960 Raymond started a literary magazine for the college, titled Selection. He also served as its editor. He moved to Eureka, California at the end of the semester, transferring to Humboldt State College. He continued to write and the following year published his first story, "The Furious Seasons," in Selection 2. In 1962 his first play, Carnations, was performed at Humboldt State College. He graduated in 1963 and held various jobs over the next four years. In 1967, the Carvers filed for bankruptcy. Raymond's father also died in June of that year.

The family moved to Palo Alto, California, where Raymond became a textbook editor for Science Research Associates, better known as SRA. This is where he met Gordon Lish, the editor and writer, who was to become an important figure in Raymond's life. Raymond's story "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" was included in The Best American Short Stories 1967.

Raymond's career as a writer really began taking shape in 1970 when he received a National Endowment for the Arts Discovery Award for poetry. He also had several short stories and his first book, Winter Insomnia, published. Although Raymond's job at SRA was eliminated in September, the severance pay, unemployment benefits and NEA Award allowed him to give all of his attention to writing for an entire year.

In 1971, Raymond had his first story published in a national magazine. This was "Neighbors," which appeared in Esquire. The publisher was none other than Gordon Lish. Raymond was appointed visiting lecturer at UC Berkley in 1972 and at the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1973. He traveled between California and Iowa during this time and had several pieces published. The following year he was appointed visiting lecturer at UC Santa Barbara. He continued to try to fly between jobs, but by this time his life was falling apart. He had become what he called a "full-time practicing alcoholic" (Halpert, 58) and was often unable to meet his obligations. He also had little time with his family. Thus, both his professional and family life were in chaos. His wife, Maryann, was also drinking heavily. The Carvers once again filed bankruptcy. Raymond remained unemployed and wrote very little over the next two years.

Although Raymond received several breakthroughs with his writing in 1976, it did not help his drinking problem. His third book of poetry, At Night the Salmon Move, was published, as was his first major-press book. This was a collection of short stories, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please ?, which was published by McGraw-Hill. However, he was hospitalized four times for acute alcoholism between October 1976 and January1977. He was forced to sell his home and he and Maryann separated. On June 2, 1977 Raymond stopped drinking. He claimed that this date marked the major turning point in his life - the end of his life as a drunk and the start of his sober life. His story, "Chef's House," written three years later, focuses on this period. He and Maryann reconciled after he dried out.

The John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship was his next award, received in 1978. He moved to the University of Texas, El Paso to take the position of writer in residence. He and Maryann began their final separation. Raymond became reacquainted with Tess Gallagher, a poetess he had met the previous year at a writer's conference. He continued to draw on his Guggenheim Fellowship to write, as his relationship with Tess grew stronger. He was next appointed Professor of English at Syracuse University in 1979 and assumed the position in 1980, the same year he received a national Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for fiction. Tess also accepted a position at the university. They purchased a house that became so popular they hung a sign outside that read "Writers At Work."

The following year Raymond and Gordon Lish had a falling out. Raymond's second major-press book, What We Talk About When We talk About Love, was severely edited by Lish against Raymond's pleas. He felt that many deep aspects of the stories were being cut. Indeed, some stories were cut to a third of their original length. However, this book marks an important point in Raymond Carver's writing. He says that this collection marked the end of his first life, as it was the last collection of stories written during his drunk days. He later restored two of these stories in his book, Where I'm Calling From.

John Gardner, Raymond's former teacher and mentor, was guest editor of The Best American Short Stories 1982 and included "Cathedral" in the collection. This became one of Raymond's most popular stories. He said of the story, "There is definitely a change going on in my writing and I'm glad of it. It happened when I wrote the story 'Cathedral'. I date the change from that story." (Gentry, p. 29)

The following year the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters awarded Raymond Carver its first Mildred and Harold Strauss Livings Fellowship. He was published many times over the next five years as a full-time writer. Poetry magazine published five of his poems in their February 1985 issue and awarded him their Levinson Prize. That was the beginning of a long relationship between the poet and that publication.

Raymond followed in his mentor's shoes and served as the guest editor of The Best American Short Stories 1986. His last published story, "Errand," included in Where I'm Calling From, was published in the New Yorker in June, 1987. In September he experienced pulmonary hemorrhages and doctors had to remove two-thirds of his cancerous left lung. In March 1988 the cancer returned. He underwent a seven-week course of full-brain radiation treatments.

In May, Raymond returned to the role of an admired author and was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Shortly thereafter, he was once again battling cancer in his left lung. He and Tess went to Reno and were married on June 17. On August 1, Raymond and Tess kissed each other three times and both said "I love you" before retiring for the night. At 6:20 the next morning, Raymond Carver died.

Among His Many Awards:

1970 National Endowment for the Arts Discovery Award for Poetry

1978 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship

1980 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Fiction

1983 Mildred and Harold Strauss Livings Fellowship (first to receive this award)

1984 Pulitzer Prize nomination for Cathedral

1988 Inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Works Cited:

Carver, Raymond, Fires. New York: Vintage-Random House, 1989.

Halpert, Sam, ed. When We Talk About Raymond Carver. Layton: Gibbs Smith, 1991.

Gentry, Marshall Bruce, and William L. Stull, eds. Conversations With Raymond Carver. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1990.

MLA Style Citation of this Web Page

Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 10: Raymond Carver." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. URL:http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap10/carver.html (provide page date or date of your login).
 

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