From Publishers Weekly
This ragtag collection features juvenilia (four short stories written during Carver's undergraduate years and a fifth composed shortly afterward), poetry from the author's small press books, the fragment of a novel, essays and other miscellany. The early fiction holds virtually no literary merit; the poetry is often either derivative or superficial ("He knew he was / in trouble when, / in the middle / of the poem, / he found himself / reaching / for his thesaurus / and then / Webster's / in that order"). The book reviews (with the exception of a thoughtful review of the Selected Letters of Sherwood Anderson ) seem dated. A commencement address, delivered shortly before Carver died in 1988, has a wistfully solemn quality that will seem odd to readers of Carver's elegant but audacious short fiction. In the introduction to Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories reprinted here, Carver remarks on the importance to him of the process of rewriting: "I think by nature I'm more deliberate and careful than I am spontaneous . . . ." This collection of mostly unpolished odds and ends does a disservice to a master craftsman.
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"A writer of astonishing compassion and honesty."
-- Washington Post Book World"With painful, funny acuteness, Carver captures the electric currents that shoot through people's lives and singe them indelibly." -- Newsweek
"Raymond Carver's America is a place of survivors and a place of stories. He has done what many of the most gifted writers fail to do: He has invented a country of his own, like no other except that very world, as Wordsworth said, which is the world to all of us." -- The New York Times Book Review
"Carver not only enchants, he convinces." -- Time