Raymond Carver was at the height of his career when ''Where I'm Calling From'' first appeared, in the March 15, 1982, issue of the New Yorker. The story was included in The Best American Short Stories, 1983 and was published in Carver's prize-winning collection Cathedral, appearing also in the author's 1988 collection Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories. The story, about a man struggling to overcome his alcohol problem in a "drying out facility," appears to have some autobiographical elements that harken back to an earlier period in Carver's life when he struggled to overcome a drinking problem which left him unable to work for long periods of time. The story is set in a rehabilitation center in which the unnamed narrator finds himself listening uncomfortably to a fellow patient relate the history of his marriage. Carver, who had been sober for nearly five years by the time he wrote the story, emphasizes the characters' vulnerability and the uncertainty of their futures. In the story's ambiguous ending, the narrator is not certain what he will say if he actually reaches his estranged wife or his girlfriend on the telephone, but the very fact that he is motivated to even make these calls may provide some hope for an end to his numbing isolation.
Carver helped lead what many critics saw as a renaissance of the American short story in the 1970s and early 1980s. At a time when literature seemed to be dominated by highly self-conscious experimental writing, Carver wrote starkly realistic fiction in a sparse style reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway. Along with writers like Bobbie Ann Mason and Tobias Wolff, Carver came to be seen as a leader of a new ''minimalist'' school which sought to use language as economically as possible and to depict the lives of ordinary people without sentimentality. Though some dismissed this type of writing as "K-Mart realism" or "TV fiction," Carver won widespread popular and critical acclaim for his work.