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Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, in 1938. His father was a saw-mill worker and his mother was a waitress and clerk. He married early and for years writing had to come second to earning a living for his young family. Despite, small-press publication, it was not until Will You Please Be Quiet Please? appeared in 1976 that his work began to reach a wider audience. This was the year in which he gave up alcohol, which had contributed to the collapse of his marriage. In 1977 he met the writer Tess Gallagher, with whom he shared the last eleven years of his life. During this prolific period he wrote three collections of stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Cathedral and Elephant. Fires, a collection of essays, poems and stories, appeared in 1985, followed by three further collections of poetry. In 1988 he completed the poetry collection A New Path to the Waterfall.
Raymond Carver managed to capture, in his short stories, the power in the mundane: the extraordinary circumstances hidden within the subtleties of reality. COLLECTED STORIES showcases his immense talent. It collects his three volumes of fiction: "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?", "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," and "Cathedral," as well as the miscellaneous stories not gathered in those three volumes. The collection even offers an "alternate" version of the "What We Talk About" collection: the stories BEFORE they were heavily edited.
The end result is a compelling, powerful look at one of fiction's greatest writers. This is bound to become a standard textbook in English courses (as has been the fate of other "Library of America" books; I am currently enrolled in a graduate course that is using their Emerson collection). Don't let the formality fool you, however; Carver is an accessible writer, enjoyed by both literary and casual readers alike. (One of my very good friends is a "non-reader;" he hardly ever cracks a book, and yet he will go on for hours about the eloquence of Raymond Carver.) COLLECTED STORIES is, essentially, a must-have volume of literature for anyone who has ever professed to love reading. While it is hardly a complete overview of Carver's career (it includes only three essays, and completely ignores his poetry, which is equally brilliant), it is an essential stepping-stone to understanding one of 20th century literature's greatest contributors.
I'm a fan of horror stories. I'm also a fan of literary short fiction though I must admit to rarely being able to figure out what I'm supposed to glean from most stories of this kind. I reckon it's like someone who enjoys crossword puzzles or word games, the joy of decoding the secret meaning. About two years ago, I came across Ray Carver, his name meaning nothing to me up to that point. The more I read about him, the more intrigued I became. Here was a guy that was considered literary, but spoke in the language of the working class. So, I picked up a used copy of Where I'm Calling which set me on what I believe will be a life long fascination w/ this man's work. After 2 years, I can't admit to understanding everything Ray's written, but I know that at the end of each story, I will feel something that no other writer can make me feel: a sense of fear in the oddity and horror that man can display; and in many of Carver's later stories, a feeling of warmth when man can overcome his true nature and stumble upon moments of true understanding.
The first Carver story I read was called "Dummy", which depending on the collection you read, is also called "The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off". It was like a literary murder mystery. Now I know there've been other murder mysteries displaying a vast technical skill, but there was something about Carver's presentation that struck a chord w/ me. There are few writers who's words bring clearer images to my mind. There's an old writer's proverb "show, don't tell" and to my mind, there's no one who adhered more to this creed. Even stories who's underlying meaning may be nestled away in uncomplicated prose, the literal action of the story could not be easier to picture.
Another favorite which I read early on is called "Neighbors".Read more ›
Carver's best stories are as good as anything I've ever read. eg Cathedral, A Small Good Thing, Fever, Put Yourself In My Shoes, What We Talk About
But many of his stories are just plain frustrating: so cryptic that even if you reread and discuss with your friends, you still can't figure out what the hell happened or what he's trying to say. His subject matter is also very limited: everyone drinks, smokes, and has a failed marriage and no money.
His writing talent, though, is indisputable: he writes great characters that make you feel. Read Carver. You probably won't like all of it, but you'll find plenty to marvel at.
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Collected Stories of Raymond Carver is the comprehensive book for all readers of Carver, not to mention any lover of short stories. This collection encompasses his entire career, from his early days to those stories published after his death, and all are excellent in depth and nature. Reading this book is a journey into the heart and soul of Raymond Carver, and this will be a collection for the ages.
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Did you ever notice a pebble in your shoe, but you kept on walking despite the irritation? That's how you'll feel as you read these 900+ pages of Carver's short stories, in which characters hold a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, while masking their despair with perfunctory words of hope. Carver's world is populated by hopeless people who stumble through the pages with eyes closed, through fog, at night, toward a precipice that they hope is not there. A reality too real. Sound familiar?
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I wish I had read this book 40 years ago - it would have made me want to become a writer. If you have never read Raymond Carver, it is not too late! His stories are oblique, shocking, sudden, and tearful. He approaches his subjects from the side, so you don't see them full-face until you have finished, and they do not truly come into focus until an hour later, when their poignancy and humanity finally dawn on you. I LOVE THIS BOOK! It will be by my bedside for the rest of my life, and I will re-read these 90 stories forever!