The two most destructive forces in American literature have been Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. They’re both amazing authors, but just about every writer who has tried to follow in their footsteps has failed. Raymond Carver is one of the few who successfully synthesized both and created his own style in the process.
This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night. His wife had died. So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut. He called my wife from his in-laws’. Arrangements were made. He would come by train, a five-hour trip, and my wife would meet him at the station. She hadn’t seen him since she worked for him one summer in Seattle ten years ago. But she and the blind man had kept in touch. They made tapes and mailed them back and forth. I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs. A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.
Raymond Carver, “Cathedral“
While writing short stories and working at a series of odd jobs, Carver had a dark vision: he had to write, but he would never make a living from writing. Therefore, he wrote full stories in the hours when he wasn’t working, editing them later. His stories usually revolve around blue-collar couples navigating their lives and relationships, more often than not unsuccessfully.
The girls who couldn’t cut it would last a week or so and then quit. Just not show for work. If they had a phone they’d take it off the hook. They wouldn’t answer their door. At first Patti took these losses to heart, like the girls were new converts who had lost their way. She blamed herself. But she got over that. Too many girls quit. Once in a while a girl would quit on her first day in the field. She’d freeze and not be able to push the doorbell. Or maybe she’d get to the door and something would happen to her voice. Or she’d get the opening remarks mixed up with something she shouldn’t be saying until she got inside.
-Raymond Carver, “Vitamins“
A heavy drinker, Carver joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1977 and eventually married the poet Tess Gallagher, who would become his second wife and who never saw him take a drink.
Carver died of cancer in 1988, and is buried at Ocean View Cemetery in Port Angeles.
Regular Right Guy doesn’t know it, but he helped with this post.