Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Raymond Carver’s Life and Stories

Stephen King reviews a biography on Raymond Carver:
Raymond Carver, surely the most influential writer of American short stories in the second half of the 20th century, makes an early appearance in Carol Sklenicka’s exhaustive and sometimes exhausting biography as a 3- or 4-year-old on a leash. “Well, of course I had to keep him on a leash,” his mother, Ella Carver, said much later — and seemingly without irony.

Mrs. Carver might have had the right idea. Like the perplexed lower-middle-class juicers who populate his stories, Carver never seemed to know where he was or why he was there.

Unless your a fan of Carver, and I am, the above passage doesn't promise much in the way of a writer's biography but I'm more interested in Carver's story of redemption. A hopeless alcoholic for much of his career, he finally found victory over the bottle and began a new life with a new wife and was happy for a while before his tragic diagnosis of cancer. Make no mistake, Carver is no hero here; he treats his first wife shabbily and the executors of his estate sound like they've continued to do so. But there are some good things to be found in his life story and those things are more important than any of his stories.

(King also reviews the new collection of Carver stories, which he likes, but I've already blogged here about the book and I still believe it's too early to issue this volume.)

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