Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Raymond Carver was born on May 25, 1938, in the small town of Clatskanie in northwestern Oregon. Before he started school, his family moved to Yakima, Washington, where his father worked as a logger. Carver went to elementary school and high school there and spent his leisure time fishing and hunting. He once said that growing up in the rugged and rural Pacific Northwest made him want to be a “writer from the West.” He also once declared that the most important, although in many ways the most negative, influence on his early hopes to become a writer was the fact that he married and became a father before he was twenty. The pressures of supporting his young family made it almost impossible to find time to write.
Carver has said that he could not remember when he did not want to be a writer; he even took a correspondence course in writing when he was a teenager. He was never really interested in writing a novel but rather liked short stories—a form which he said best suited the circumstances of his life, for they could be finished in a few sittings. As a young man, his reading tastes were relatively unformed and undisciplined. He read Zane Grey Westerns, the science-fiction works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and such men’s magazines as True, Argosy, Sports Afield, and Outdoor Life—a masculine reading list which may partially account for the laconic, no-frills style of his short stories.
Carver moved his wife and two children to Northern California in 1958, where he registered as a student at Chico State College (now California State University, Chico). An important positive influence on his career while at Chico was his enrollment in a creative writing class taught by John Gardner, who was soon to make a name for himself as a writer. Carver was lavish in his praise for the help Gardner gave him, comparing him to the great maestros of the past who nurtured their apprentices. Because of Gardner, Carver began to think of writing as a high calling, something to be taken very seriously.
Carver transferred to California’s northern coastal college,...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
After years of neglect, the short story enjoyed a true renaissance in the 1980’s; Carver was arguably the most important figure in that revival. His understanding of the merits of the short-story form and his sensitivity to the situation of modern men and women caught in tenuous relationships and inexplicable separations has made him a spokesman for those who cannot articulate their own dilemmas. Although critics are divided over the relative merits of Carver’s early, bleak, experimental stories and his later, more conventional and morally optimistic stories, there is little disagreement that he is a modern master of the “much-in-little” nature of the short-story form.
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Raymond Carver grew up in a sparsely populated corner of the Pacific Northwest. This rustic environment had an indelible effect upon his character and writing. Like Ernest Hemingway, one of the writers who influenced him, he loved the purity and freedom of the American wilderness, and he also respected the simplicity, honesty, and directness of the men and women who earned meager and precarious livelihoods in that primitive setting. He married young and had two children to support by the time he was twenty. He had wanted to be a writer from the time he was in the third grade, but the responsibilities of parenthood made it extremely difficult for him to find time to write. His limited education forced him to take menial jobs for which he was temperamentally unsuited. He was unable to consider tackling anything as ambitious as a full-length novel, so he spent his odd free hours writing short stories and poetry. He managed to get some of his work published in little magazines, but these publications paid little or nothing for his work, so he was haunted by financial problems for much of his life.
One of the most important influences in Carver’s life was John Gardner (1933-1982), who taught creative writing at California State University at Chico and said, “You cannot be a great writer unless you feel greatly.” The idealistic Gardner introduced his students to the literary magazines that represented the cutting edge in contemporary American fiction and...
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In style and subject matter, Raymond Carver’s short-story collections reflect his life experiences. The son of working-class parents, he grew up knowing the financial and spiritual hardships of trying to earn a living in the logging districts of Yakima, Washington. The first in his family ever to graduate from high school, by the age of twenty he was married and the father of two children. Parenting, he later said, was a responsibility for which he was totally unprepared.
In 1958, Carver moved his family to Northern California, where he attended Chico State College and was encouraged by the novelist John Gardner. The next two decades were marred by a series of “crap jobs,” marital turmoil, bankruptcy, and alcoholism. Carver had to steal time from other obligations in order to write and thus felt his best calling was being sacrificed to exigencies. During these years, however, he settled on his defining literary topics: the seemingly futile struggles of the working class and the relations between men and women. Delivered in a spare prose style that had been “cut to the marrow,” his first two books are about people who inhabit the edges of the American Dream. Frustrated and deprived of opportunities, his characters do not recognize themselves in the lives they are living.
On June 2, 1977, Carver stopped drinking. Within a year, he met poet Tess Gallagher and began sharing with her a new “second life,” for which he was always grateful. As if mirroring the positive changes in his personal life, Cathedral marked a dramatic shift in style and tone from his previous work. His stories became more generous, more hopeful. In the title piece, for example, a blind man entices the story’s cynical narrator to close his eyes and draw with him a cathedral being described on a late night television documentary. The collaborative effort frees Robert to admit that “it’s really something” to share one’s imaginative vision with another person.
Cathedral and Where I’m Calling From secured Carver’s literary reputation. Although he never expected to be famous, a few months before his death he said that he could not think of anything he would rather be called than a writer. His career marked by innovation, authenticity, and compassion for the disfranchised, Carver died of lung cancer at the age of fifty.
Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Raymond Clevie Carver, Jr., was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, and grew up in Yakima, Washington, where his father worked as a saw filer in a lumber mill. Like most young men growing up in that heavily forested, sparsely populated region, Carver enjoyed hunting and fishing; however, he seems to have inherited unusual intelligence, sensitivity, and ambition. His life is a story of his struggle to achieve self-actualization in spite of an impoverished background. His parents were poor and uneducated, and he himself was extremely ignorant about literature. In his teens, he enrolled in a correspondence course in creative writing, but he never finished it. His early reading was typically the westerns of Zane Grey, the fantasies of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and magazines celebrating rugged outdoor adventure.
At the age of nineteen, Carver married his teenage sweetheart, who gave birth to their first child less than six months later. Another child was born the following year, and from then on, Carver was torn between the desire to become a writer and the need to support his family. “Nothing—and, brother, I mean nothing—that ever happened to me on this earth,” he said, “could come anywhere close, could possibly be as important to me, could make as much difference, as the fact that I had two children.”
In 1958, Carver and his family moved to Paradise, California, where he enrolled at Chico State College (now Chico State University). One of the major turning points in his life was a course in creative writing taught by the inspiring writer and teacher John Gardner. Carver began publishing poems and short stories in college literary magazines. He continued to do so when he transferred to Humboldt State College (now University) in Arcata, California, and finally his work began to be accepted by respected literary quarterlies.
Carver was tortured by the...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
In his relatively short career as a professional author, Raymond Carver established a critical reputation as the most powerful and innovative short-story writer of his generation. He was born in a small town in northwestern Oregon, but by the time he started school his family had moved to Yakima, Washington, where his father worked as a logger. Carver once declared that the most important, although in many ways the most negative, influence on his early hopes to become a writer was the fact that he married and became a father before he was twenty. The need to support his family made the work he really wanted to do impossible.
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IntroductionRaymond Carver was a man of few words. Often characterized by an economy that bordered on austerity, Carver’s stories were short and plainly written, and his terse prose lent itself perfectly to his favorite subject: working-class America. Aside from poetry, which was written in the same no-frills style, Carver devoted himself exclusively to short stories. What really set Carver apart from other authors, however, was his exploration of the dark side of Americana. In the simple lives of small town folk, Carver uncovered the violence, rage, and loneliness lurking just beneath the surface. Like many writers, his posthumous reputation has grown exponentially, and it is impossible to imagine any serious study of the short story that does not include the extraordinary work of Raymond Carver.
- The alcoholism that figured prominently in Carver’s work was a sad reflection of his own battles with the disease.
- Among Carver’s many influences was the author Anton Chekhov. One of Carver’s last stories, “Errand,” took place during the final hours of the Russian writer’s life.
- The economy of Carver’s writing was not a purely aesthetic choice. He often worked day jobs and thus had less time to devote to his writing.
- Carver’s low-key approach and focus on everyday life is evident in one of his most famous stories, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” which depicts a simple conversation between two couples.
- Carver’s short story “So Much Water So Close to Home” has been adapted to film twice: first as one of many interlocking Carver tales in Robert Altman’s mosaic Short Cuts, and then as the 2006 film Jindabyne.
Raymond Carver was born on May 25, 1938, in Clatskanie, Oregon. His father was a manual laborer, and Carver worked as a laborer at various jobs from the early 1950s through the late 1960s. In 1957, at the age of eighteen, he married sixteenyear- old Maryann Burk, who eventually became a teacher, and with whom he had two children within the first two years of their marriage. They moved to California, where Carver attended Humboldt State College (now California State University at Humboldt) and received his bachelor’s degree in English in 1963, while at the same time working in a sawmill to support his family. In 1966, Carver earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa. His short story, ‘‘Will You Please Be Quiet Please?’’ was selected for The Best American Short Stories of 1967, an annual publication. His stories were selected for the O. Henry Award in 1973, 1974, 1975, and 1983. 1976 saw his first major book publication, a collection of stories written between 1962 and 1975 entitled, Will You Please Be Quiet Please?.
From 1971 to 1979, Carver taught at several colleges and universities, including: as a lecturer in creative writing at the University of California at Santa Cruz (1971–1972); as a lecturer in fiction writing at the University of California at Berkeley (1972–1973); as visiting professor of English at the Writers Workshop, University of Iowa (1973–1974); as a lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara (1974–1975); as a member of the faculty writing program at Goddard College (1977–1978); and as visiting distinguished writer at the University of Texas at El Paso (1978–1979).
Carver and Maryann separated in 1976 and he was hospitalized for his alcoholism four times between 1976 and 1977. In the summer of 1977, he quit drinking for good—one of his proudest achievements in life. His second major collection of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, was published in 1981. 1983 saw the publication of his third major collection, Cathedral. He and Maryann divorced in 1983; in 1988, he married poet Tess Gallagher. Carver died later that year of lung cancer at the age of 50. His fourth major story collection, Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories was published, shortly before his death. Several collections of his short stories and poems were published posthumously. Director Robert Altman adapted a number of Carver’s stories to the screen, combining them into a single narrative feature film as director of the movie entitled Short Cuts.