Automotive Holiday Deals Books Holiday Gift Guide Shop Men's Athletic Shoes Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon David Bowie egg_2015 All-New Amazon Fire TV Beauty Gifts Gifts Under $50 Amazon Gift Card Offer bf15 bf15 bf15 $30 Off Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 Kindle Black Friday Deals Outdoor Deals on HTL
What It Used to Be Like and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Buy Used
+ $3.99 shipping
Used: Good | Details
Sold by Best-Book-Depot
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Used book at great price. Maybe Ex-lib, may not contain supplement such as CD. Prompt shipping and great customer service. Satisfaction guaranteed
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

What It Used to Be Like: A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 11, 2006

22 customer reviews

See all 5 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
Hardcover, Bargain Price, July 11, 2006
$17.99 $2.99

This is a bargain book and quantities are limited. Bargain books are new but could include a small mark from the publisher and an price sticker identifying them as such. Details

Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book: Use promo code HOLIDAY30 at checkout to get an extra 30% off any book for a limited time. Excludes Kindle eBooks and Audible Audiobooks. Restrictions apply. Learn more

  • Explore more great deals on thousands of titles in our Deals in Books store.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though it's the relationship with Tess Gallagher during the last years of his life that most people remember, the majority of Raymond Carver's literary accomplishments took place during his 25-year marriage to his high school sweetheart. But while her story offers some biographical insights into how short stories like "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" were created, it's essentially a cliché-filled tale of the artist's suffering wife. During their honeymoon, he tells her that if he had to choose between her and writing, he'd take the writing. She doesn't get the hint, and time after time she winds up dropping out of college so she can support her family as Raymond struggles through creative writing programs and, later, alcoholism (years later, she recognizes her behavior as classic co-dependency). Their personal dramas, ranging from a string of crummy landlords to revelations of extramarital affairs, are presented in embarrassingly stiff dialogue, as are Maryann's occasional insights into Raymond's literary ambitions. "I like these people," he says of the working classes. "Maybe I'll be able to tell their stories as well as anyone." For all its intimate and frequently unpleasant details, her memoir doesn't explain how he succeeded. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Legendary writer Raymond Carver's struggle for recognition, his alcoholism, and his relationship with fellow writer Tess Gallagher in the years leading up to his death at age 50 are well documented, unlike his 27-year marriage to Maryann Burk Carver. Now, at long last, Maryann tells her story. She was a bright 15-year-old with her eye on law school in 1955 when she met Raymond, who at 17 already wanted to be a writer. Madly in love, the young couple married when Maryann became pregnant just before her high-school graduation. Soon they had two children--so much for law school. Maryann worked full time while Raymond attended college, wrote, and worked. Poor and intrepid, they lived an exhaustingly nomadic life. As she relates her compelling tale of love and sacrifice with candor and dignity, Maryann portrays a great American writer, illuminates a key chapter in the history of American literature, and presents powerful testimony to the dark side of both creativity and working-class life. Her exacting memoir also presents an unsparing chronicle of entrenched sexism, as well as the boundless joys and demands of marriage and parenthood. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Hero Quick Promo
Holiday Deals in Kindle Books
Save up to 85% on more than 1,000 Kindle Books. These deals are valid until November 30, 2015. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 064196949X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0641969492
  • ASIN: B001G7RDKQ
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,265,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on December 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Interesting that her book ran to 1,250 pages and took years and years to write, and that someone called John Stryker edited it down to its present lapidary form. Don't people say that Raymond Carver also wrote too long and that the notorious editor Gordon Lish cut and chopped as he saw fit in order to maintain that famous "minimalist" style we associate with Carver? Maybe he got it from his wife, as he got so much else. He's great and everything, but her book shows who was the real writer in the family. The first word of the book is "spudnuts," did you ever hear of them? As she explains, they are the doughnuts of Washington State, made with potato flour and marketed as an indigenous treat. She met Ray when she worked with his mom at a spudnut cafe in Union Gap, south of Yakima, and he was far and away the best looking boy she had ever known. Though only fifteen, Maryann knew what she wanted already.

It was a sexist society which said it was all right for Ray to go to prostitutes and pay cold cash for "an around the world" (as MBC adds, if you don't know what that is, don't ask") but that it was wrong for Maryann to want to go to college classes.

Most of the book is about her giving up her life to help Ray and his career, while raising their two beautiful children (by the time she was 20, she was saddled with these two bundles of energy) in a series of rundown, crumby apartments.

It's all about how an ambitious girl of the working class suffers when her husband's a genius and naturally society makes her defer her own dreams so that he can become famous.
Read more ›
3 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By An Avid Reader on October 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Maryann Burk Carver, first and long-time wife of the great writer Raymond Carver, has here published an enormously important memoir. Though married to one of the greatest short story writers of the twentieth century (arguably the greatest), this book is about her, about Maryann, and from it, we learn of a strong, intelligent, loyal woman, and the nearly three decades she fought for a marriage which later would so often be summed up and dismissed as a horrible burden to Raymond Carver's creativity, instead of a blessed anchor in the chaotic storm he was creating for himself and for those around him.

One can't help admire Maryann's enormous efforts to be a good mother, a good wife, a good supporter of her husband and his work, a good bread winner, at a time when women were expected to sacrifice themselves for their families, but still find (or feign) contentment. Still, it surprised me to read about all the struggles she went through, all the pain and sorrow and degradation, and to see that somehow she still loved and loves this man. Also laudatory (and surprising) is that she seems to foster no hatred, no animus toward the other women in Ray's life-most notably, his second wife, Tess Gallagher.

There is no finger-pointing here. Maryann takes full responsibility for her own battles with alcohol, for her own breaking of the marriage vows, for her own flaws and frailties.

In its frankness, What It Used to be Like makes clear how Raymond Carver's young life laid the groundwork for Will You Please be Quiet, Please? and for his next two books, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Cathedral, the triad in all likelihood constituting the very best of Raymond Carver's work.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on September 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When a person of considerable renown dies their memory and legacy is often fought over by survivors and disciples. Often there are rivals claims about who really knows and defines the ' true person'. Often out of the conflicting versions there may emerge more than contradiction, rather a more complete sense of the person.

Raymond Carver had two wives, one for twenty- five years and one who he married towards the end who he had lived with for nine years. One is the author of this book, the mother of his children Maryann Burk Carver, the other was the one with whom he spent an easier, more successful and calmer time, the writer Tess Gallagher.

In the first marriage Carver was largely poor, troubled, striving to become a writer, a very young husband and father. This book is about the first marriage as told by his first wife, a wife who during their married years worked as waitress, telephone operator, teacher to help support him. Their life was often a life at the edge, at the edge of bankruptcy, and homelessness, at the edge of poverty and despair. It was also a life of good times and love. And one central theme of this work is that her love for Carver persisted even after she understood that he really wanted a separation, and it was better for them to divorce.

As his often the case she was in a sense the sacrificing better half, who helped enable her husband to go forward in the work he needed to do. For Carver writing was a vocation, an obsession, a love which he had greater loyalty to than to his family. This book tells the story through the long difficult years to the point where Carver knows initial and real success- and everything falls apart.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?