Friday, May 14, 2010

Where I’m Calling From – Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver – May 25, 1938 – August 2, 1988

I don’t think I need to go into any great depth on Carver and his background. Most readers of the short story are quite familiar with him and his personal as well as professional life. One interesting little piece that I discovered while I was searching for a unique photo of him was the fact that he attended the ODU literary festival back in October of 1982 – the same year that this short was written. (other notable attendees were Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey).

ODU 5th annual literary festival –

Raymond Carver has been described as "one of the true contemporary masters" of the short story by Robert Towers in the New York Review of Books. A professor of English at Syracuse University, Carver has published three collections of short stories: "Will You Please Be Quiet Please," "Furious Seasons," and most recently, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." A new collection of stories will be published by Knopf this year. In addition, Carver has published three collections of poetry. His stories, which have won several 0. Henry Awards, the Best American Short Story award, and the Pushcart Press award, have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Esquire, Harpers, Antaeus, and The Paris Review. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a National Endowment for the Arts fellow in poetry and fiction, and a Wallace Stegner Literary Fellow. "Will You Please Be Quiet Please" was nominated for the National Book Award for fiction in 1977. [extracted from 1982 brochure]

“Where I’m Calling From” is, as expected, another wonderful story from Carver. Carver does a fine job of writing what he knows about. Alcoholism, violence, depression and the general haze that booze puts you in when you are addicted.

I can say that his stories really stand out from the pack when they are grouped together in an anthology like “The Best American Short Stories”.

I’m still pushing through several papers/thoughts/opinions about the influence of writing conferences and workshops and what sort of authors and movements they turn out. I haven’t formed a solid opinion yet... but the evidence that they have a huge collective impact on the writing hitting the shelves over the years can clearly be noted in well defined starts and finishes..., and I’ve even seen clear shade of writing styles by the authors collected in the books I have read for this project.

I recognize that the series editor as well as the volume editor do not necessarily have the best “scale” or “balance” when they select their stories – as I have opined on concerning the selections by John Gardner. They exist in a world of literature, and the inbreeding of ideas/styles that the authors of the day move in is unavoidable.

And then there is Carver.

He really exists outside of this intermingling and the fact that he doesn’t need to rely on his imagination to produce really good stories is evident. The fact that he lived through the shit he writes about is crystal clear...furthermore, he has the ability really communicate to the reader the rawness – almost placing you inside of his body – experiencing what the character is going through.

Just as when you look into someone’s eyes, and they said they have can tell whether or not they really have.

I just re-read the above...

before I hit the “post” button, I had the funny thought, what would the interest be in a volume of “The Best American Short Stories” edited by a series editor...but the volume editor would just be...a person.

Just a reader. Not someone who writes well...or necessarily in the past read a bunch of short stories...a person who is not familiar with the literary movements or styles or could pick out a certain author by their writing.

A person who is not influenced by the “literary machine” out of one of the major publishing cities (there really is only one isn't there?).

Will it happen? Doubtful.

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