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Raymond Carver: Collected Stories (LOA #195) (Library of America) Hardcover – August 20, 2009
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About the Author
Raymond Carver (1938-1988), the author of such landmark collections as Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (1976), What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981), and Cathedral (1983), was perhaps the most influential short-story writer of his generation.
William L. Stull, editor, is professor of English at the University of Hartford.
Maureen P. Carroll is adjunct professor of humanities at the University of Hartford and a practicing attorney. With William Stull she has devoted more than two decades to the work of Raymond Carver, publishing numerous essays and editing Conversations with Raymond Carver (1990), Remembering Ray: A Composite Biography(1993), All of Us: The Collected Poems (1996), and Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose (2000).
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Anything that came out of "Cathedral" is fantastic, but there's also "They're Not Your Husband," "Intimacy," "A Small, Good Thing," "Tell the Woman We're Going..." I could go on and on.. Just do your brain a favor and read Carver.
The one thing that really is awesome about LoA's treatment of Carver is that you get a good look at Gordon Lish's edits and a small view at how Carver wrote fleshed-out, heavy roughs of his stories only to be cut down by Lish's editorial knife. It really is interesting (if you're in to that sort of thing). But holy heck all-mightly "A Small, Good Thing"? "Viewfinder"? "Everything Stuck To Him"? "Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarets"? How could one die without reading these? Carver's depth (aided by Lish) seems to find no bounds, and the conciseness seems biblical.
Are You a Doctor? explores both curiosity and hope but not in the expected manner. Pastoral and The Cabin are essentially the same story but altered slightly as Carver fine tuned the latter. Both examine the futility of attempting to repeat exact moments and feelings. Viewfinder evokes Cheever and showcases the ability of both of them to dance on the edge of madness within a sane backdrop. Tell the Women We're Going carries a hint of Stephen King - enough said.
The Pheasant is abrupt much like the accident it depicts. Preservation tells the story of one in a marriage holding it together until they no longer can. The Train, written for John Cheever, picks up on one of his own stories and extends both the mood and the mystery of the original. It is hard to describe any of Carver's work as bright and positive but Fever comes as close as any. It was among my favorites for its hope and human connection. Kindling also carries a feeling of redemption but Carver, bless him, leaves the conclusion to the reader. One that continues to sit with me is What Would You Like To See? - it is simple, compelling and worthy or a re-read or two but, then again, all of Carver's stories are.
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". In it, a couple charged w/ feeding the neighbors' pet and watering their plants while they're away, slowly begin to usurp the neighbors' lives and apartment. What ensues is nothing short of brilliant. Carver's insight into the human mind is better than anyone I've ever read. No matter how odd his characters act, everything is totally believable, and when you consider that you yourself are probably in one of these stories somewhere, doing something you yourself probably don't even notice you do, well, therein lies the horror.
The more I studied Carver's writing the more I found the influence of one of his earliest proponents, Gordon Lish. Lish was the fiction editor at Esquire magazine from the late 60's to the mid 70's and was responsible for bringing Ray's work to the attention of a wider audience. Early in their relationship Ray deferred all the editing responsibility to Lish, basically, I feel, because Lish had given him his biggest break. As time went on and Carver became more sure of himself as a writer, he and Lish would often clash on how Carver's story should be presented. While Ray is known as THE Minimalist, his work, though short, was often much longer than the general public was allowed to see. From the Notes in this Library of Congress edition, we learn that Carver's second collection was cut by as much as 55% from its original manuscript form. Carver begged Lish to reconsider the massive editing of the stories in this collection, but Lish steamrolled ahead with the result that Carver became even more famous. But it was a fame Carver felt he'd gotten the wrong way. These were not HIS stories, at least not the way he envisioned them. That is why this LOC edition is so important. Appended to the end of this stalwart collection is Ray's original manuscript for What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
The difference, to me, is night and day. One of my favorite's from that collection is called "Viewfinder". Many critics have found it to be one of Ray's most surreal, angry stories, but when read in it's original form, I divine a totally different outlook, one that would become more apparent in his third collection Cathedral.
If you only buy one collection by Raymond Carver or even if you only have a passing interest in him, you will not be disappointed with this edition. It has nearly all of Carver's fiction plus what is arguably his most influential collection in the author's preferred, and intended, form.
I can't stress enough how amazing this author is. In just a few brief pages he can encompass what it is to be Human, all too human.
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Collection #1 Will You Please Be Quiet, Pleas?Read more