Re: Raymond Carver
Listen in RealAudio as Edgar Whan, Marilyn Atlas, and Daniel Born discuss the stories of Raymond Carver. Or read the transcripts the old-fashioned way. Join the discussion here. Note that the comments are automatically added to the guestbook page and later copied and pasted to this page. And please listen to the Carver question and answer session in Real Audio.
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theme, this, of community reconsidered. To me, a successful community depends
on two somewhat competing elements: One, the recognition of our common humanity;
and two, the recognition that it is strikingly hard to walk in anyone else's
shoes other than our own, and thus we must listen to and respect the viewpoint
and experiences of others. Speaking as someone who is (as of yet) not terribly
familiar with the works being discussed, I'm already outlining in my head. It
looks like three authors deal with stratified communities (Morrison, Hurston,
Tolstoy) and one less so (Carver); on the other hand, it seems that one work
is about breaking through stratification (Tolstoy's) and the others concern
more people dealing with the realities of their own community as being stratified
-- of living with the reality of a subcommunity. I'm particularly looking forward
to hearing about Carver's work, since I really enjoy seeing what is familiar
to me in a new way. And of course, I'm looking forward to finding out how far
off-base my initial impressions are! ;)
Rachel Jaffe <email@example.com>
USA - Monday, April 28, 1997 at 23:46:44 (EDT)
Since I was
introduced to Carver, about a year and a half ago, I think I've read all of
his collected short stories and two books of his poetry ("Happiness",
a perfect little poem from WHERE WATER COMES TOGETHER WITH OTHER WATER, comes
to mind now as I think of his poetry, and the one from FIRES that begins with,
"I have always wanted brook trout for breakfast"---I *love* that;
what a great opening line), but the only version of "So Much Water"
that I've read is from WHERE I'M CALLING FROM, which I believe is the revised
version. And here's the kicker of it: I like it but I don't love it. It's one
of the few stories from that collection I haven't been able to read more than
once. I saw Robert Altman's adaptation of it in his film SHORT CUTS before I
read the story, and now I can't read the story without thinking about the movie---which
I did not like and I would not recommend to ANYONE; don't even bother with it
as a curiosity---just forget it. Regardless of how literal the adaptations are,
it's not a very good film. It didn't help turn me onto Raymond Carver at all.
It's been about 3 years since I've seen the film; perhaps if I saw it now, after
having read most of Carver's stories and poems, I would feel differently. But
I doubt it. (How's that for a promo of SHORT CUTS?)
Phillip Cairns <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Canada - Friday, May 09, 1997 at 11:48:54 (EDT)
Let me just
respectfully disagree with Phil Cairns' comments about Robert Altman's "Short
Cuts" posted here. I think it's a remarkable movie, as does Tess Gallagher,
Carver's widow, who served as a consultant on the project. It's obviously a
free-wheeling adaptation of Carver, not a literal rendering of the story, and
several of the characters--Zooey and her mother, for example--do not appear
in Carver's work at all, but Altman gets the gritty side of Carver's world (transposed
to Southern California) down very well. I especially love the way the stories
intersect with one another, and how different characters are major figures in
one story and minor figures in another. In short, I think it's one of the great
American films of the '90s, so there's no accounting for taste, is there Phil?
Fred Moramarco <email@example.com>
San Diego, CA USA - Saturday, May 10, 1997 at 12:06:28 (EDT)
I'll have to
get back to you on SHORT CUTS, Fred. For awhile there I used to seek out movies
which werebased on novels/short stories. If I enjoyed the film, I'd check out
the original source, the novel, short story,whatever. Alan Parker's film, BIRDY,
turned me onto the works of William Wharton, and Scorcesse's LAST TEMPTATION
OF CHRIST turned me onto Nikos Kazantzakis, but Altman's SHORT CUTS didn't do
anything to turn me onto Raymond Carver. I didn't go looking for Raymond Carver
after I saw the movie.That's all I can tell you. I also like to watch movies
which are based on novels/short stories which I have already read. Usually it's
disappointing (although the film adaptation of Wharton's A MIDNIGHT CLEAR wasn't
too bad, not nearly as powerful as the novel, but still a good movie). I hadn't
read any Raymond Carver when I first saw SHORT CUTS. As a film, it just didn't
work for me at all. I wasn't emotionally drawn into any of it. I didn't feel
for any of the characters. Now, having read most of Carver's short stories and
poems, in the film, the realism, the lasting quality of the images---just wasn't
there like it is in Carver's writing. Take a story like "Careful"
for instance. That's the story about the guy who's separated from his wife and
he's living on the top floor of a house having champaign and doughnuts for breakfast
one morning when his wife drops by to have a talk except he can't hear her very
well because he has wax build-up in one ear and they spend the whole time trying
to find a way to get the wax out of his ear instead of talking like she wanted
to. See? I haven't read that story in about 8 months and I can remember it---I
can *see it*---perfectly, like something that I actually witnessed. When I read
a Carver story, it leaves an impression, to say the least---it's impressive.
SHORT CUTS didn't even come close to having that effect on me. I didn't walk
away thinking, "Wow," like I do most of the time when I read a Raymond
Carver story. That's the bottom line. Tess Gallager may have approved the film;
Carver himself could have approved it if he'd been alive---but it wouldn't have
made any difference in my reaction to the film though. As a film, it didn't
move me. As an adaptation of Carver's works---the film pales in comparison to
the power of Carver's written words. I'll try to rent the video this weekend
and see if I change my mind.
Phillip Cairns <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Canada - Saturday, May 10, 1997 at 17:39:43 (EDT)
I got here
while looking for more information on Tess Gallagher. I picked up her book PORTABLE
KISSES EXPANDED at my university library. I was knocked out by the intensity
and deconstruction of her grief. So far, my only exposure to Carver has been
from the movie SHORTCUTS. I am an Altman fan, and I thought the movie was one
of his best. Interesting that many responders to this site disagree. I will
have to make the time to read the Carver stories in their original form. Maybe
I will change my opinion of the film. Cross-medium interpretation is one of
my favorite subjects; I hope to one day teach a class on the subject of adapting
literature to film.
Stephanie Braunstein <SBRAUNSTEIN@vms1.cc.uop.edu>
USA - Thursday, May 15, 1997 at 19:57:39 (EDT)
to discussion. Regarding Altman's SHORT CUTS, I thought it was a good movie,
but not up to Altman's best. I would also have to agree, though, that the movie
does not convey at all the mood of a Carver short story.
Sean Allan <SMDA@aol.com>
Chico, Ca USA - Sunday, May 18, 1997 at 00:34:51 (EDT)
to real audio discussion about Raymond Carver yet didn't perceive much connection
with the topic community reconsidered. Negative examples of community were mentioned
in some of the analysis by the panelist. I would like other listeners or the
panelists help me make better sense of Carver's short stories and community.
Another point which bothers me is how we can have community when for example
one is focused on gender or strongly held views where the goal is not "everyone
together" but my group is the hero and demands their viewpoint for the
community. Conflicts between gender, age, idealogy which the panelists exemplied
are hard to reconcile with community. I would appreciated any responses, thanks.
Chico, CA USA - Sunday, May 25, 1997 at 18:32:03 (EDT)
for starting the discussion. Yes, I think you're right. We need to focus more
on "community" during these discussions. What do you think of the
story, "They're Not Your Husband?" I saw it as a bittersweet love
story (the community of two). More bitter than sweet, to be sure. Earl didn't
really have any admirable qualities that I saw. "What does she see in him?"
How many times have we said/heard/thought that question? Yet, Doreen obviously
sees something in him. She goes on the crazy diet, loses the 20 pounds or whatever.
And even when Earl acts like a jackass at her workplace, the restaurant, and
everyone's looking at Earl the fool, saying, "Who's this joker?" Doreen
defends him "He's a salesman (he is "somebody") He's my husband"
(I'll still claim him) But, Earl, eat your sundae and go home, okay?
David Kurz <email@example.com>
Athens, OH USA - Sunday, May 25, 1997 at 19:56:41 (EDT)
I have recently
been exposed to Carver a few months ago, and I completely fell in love with
the guy. His style is totally recognizable and unique. His stories are really
warm/light-hearted with his naive and innocent characters.To me his message
seems to say that there is good in society.Which is a message worth listening
Jason Cobabe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ft Collins , CO USA - Monday, May 26, 1997 at 02:20:33 (EDT)
Boray -- I
was intrigued by your comment that "Another point which bothers me is how
we can have community when for example one is focused on gender or strongly
held views where the goal is not "everyone together" but my group
is the hero and demands their viewpoint for the community. Conflicts between
gender, age, idealogy which the panelists exemplied are hard to reconcile with
community." I haven't heard the panelists' remarks, unfortunately, but
I think a key issue with regard to your question is how you define community?
Is it environmental, socioeconomic, or can it also be split up along the lines
of gender or age? And certainly ideology seems like reasonable way to define
community. And is it always wrong to have smaller sub-communities, leading to
division, or can it sometimes be a recognition that groups of people, like individuals,
can have individual characteristics? (oops, startin' to sound like a soapbox,
sorry!) Another thought on those lines -- are people operating within different
layers of community? Sometimes in the community of their gender, perhaps, and
sometimes in the community of their family?
USA - Monday, May 26, 1997 at 14:21:31 (EDT)
to me and he's a hell of a writer. Nonetheless, I wonder if my discomfort with
the Cathedral first person's superficiality in his thinking about Beulah's "pitiful
life" married to a blind man reflected my own depth, or just changed times.
I share an office space with a blind woman -- just the two of us -- and we often
discuss our love lives; I've never had a thought remotely resembling the Carver
character's. Needless to say, assuming Carver's purpose was to portray a superficial
individual, how could the individual be THAT superficial?? I also enjoyed Robert
Coles' introductory essay, and would make one comment on it. If "love is
the answer" (to quote Mr. Lennon), for saving everyone from the severely
lost-isolated of Tolstoy to mildly inter-personal disfunctionals who can't help
disrupting communities, then the question has not been broadly enough stated.
That is, there are many unhealably damaged human animals out here, and it is
only the fortunate for whom love CAN BE the answer. (I hope neither of those
comments is a discussion-stopper. Neither was meant to be.)
USA - Wednesday, May 28, 1997 at 04:29:15 (EDT)
Edgar and Marilyn
will be back at the end of the month to answer any questions or comments posted
here about the Raymond Carver readings. After thinking about the "Carver-community"
question for a while, it seems, perhaps, that Carver's close look at couples
and families interpersonal relationsips doesn't easily lend itself to discussions
of "community" as we typically think of it. Maybe that's the nature
of the short story, too. There's just not enough time to develop the number
of characters sufficent to give the feel of community. What do you think of
my mini-theory? One of the comments/criticisms raised several times in the program
was that Carver's stories are "downers" or that his best-received
stories were the most positive ones, like "Cathedral."
David Kurz <email@example.com>
Athens, OH USA - Sunday, June 01, 1997 at 11:48:04 (EDT)
David, i like
your mini-theory. an elaboration: written fiction is to community like movies
are to non-interpersonal-relationships information. trying to imagine written
fiction dealing beautifully with community is like trying to imagine a movie
dealing beautifully (for example) with the fundamental theorem of calculus.
i'll be interested to see if any of the upcoming readings makes me think differently.
USA - Monday, June 02, 1997 at 08:17:57 (EDT)
I'm sorry for
my deeply poor english, but it isn´t my fault, as you may imagine. I am only
writing to say that Raymond Carver had changed my entire life. I have started
to read his stories in 1997, when he was first published in my country ("What
we talk about...") and since that moment he became the modern writer that
have struck me with such a force I can't put it in words (as he could). Nevertheless,
what makes me doing this is a fact that I, in some strange way, witnessed: in
1988, I started what would became the first serious relationship of my life.
Its beginning was, naturally, sealed with a kiss. Very well: that kiss happened
on August, 2, at the very same instant (I know it now) that Mr. Carver died.
That just some fait-divers stuff, but I can't help myself, from time to time,
to look above my shoulder waiting for an indetermined explanation for that "sign".
Oporto, Portugal - Monday, June 02, 1997 at 17:01:15 (EDT)
on your mini-theory that "(short stories don't have enough) time to develop
the number of characters sufficient to give the feel of community." I think
the Iris Murdoch novels i've read are good examples of trying to accomplish
that, in longer fiction, with family-centered communities; and Iris' success
in this regard is basically like the success of GBS's famous bicycle-riding
dog. It's not that the dog does it so well that's astounding, but that the dog
does it at all. In my opinion communities are essentially too superficial --
not too complicated because composed of so many complicated individuals -- for
artists of fiction (of any length) to care about trying to capture. (Why else
do we so often participate in communities as couples instead of as individuals?)
Artists must be concerned both with truth and with the "fit" of their
medium to the particular truth they're trying to portray. So consider Max Planck's
comment on the community of theoretical physicists: "Truth never triumphs
in the end. Its opponents die." If the role of truth is so slight among
the community of theoretical physicists, how much less important must it be
in other communities? I would even go so far as to argue that what communities
essentially do is reinforce their most dominant members' fantasies. How could
serious artists be seriously concerned to capture that ugliness on the written
USA - Thursday, June 05, 1997 at 08:14:22 (EDT)
for taking my "mini-theory" and running with it! Lots of food for
thought. Back to Raymond Carver...do you think his stories can teach us anything
about community? What do you think of the couple in "So Much Water So Close
to Home?" Is that a case of a good person making a series of bad decisions?
Or do you even see him as a "good person?" Alberto, I loved your "mini-love
story" and the Carver connection! Did you mean 1987 when you wrote 1997?
Has Carver been translated into Portugese or do you read his stories in English?
I was also wondering if any of Carver's stories are read in the literature departments
of your universities?
David Kurz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Athens, OH USA - Friday, June 06, 1997 at 15:48:22 (EDT)
I am a physician living in Cincinnati, and a former English major at the University
of Notre Dame. While in medical school, I was fortunate enough to be a student
of Dr. Robert Coles for a month and to listen to him talk about the works of
Raymond Carver firsthand. What struck me the most about Dr. Coles' readings
of Carver's work, was his solemn manner throught his lecture. There were long
pauses between thoughts, allowing Carver's messages to resonate personally with
each student. These stories of Carver's were very important to Coles, and subsequently
to me, because Carver is clearly struggling with something in each one of them.
He struggles with what it means to be poor. He struggles with what it means
to be ambivalent about the awesome and ever-present responsibility of parenthood.
He struggles with what it means to be an alcoholic, and he struggles with what
it means to try to simply be with somebody in friendship. This is the community
of which Coles speaks, and about which Carver sought to write. He describes
simply, and deeply the community to which all of us belong, the common unity
of human existence, of human being. Carver writes of what it means to be living
a life on this planet with others who share these same struggles and dilemmas,
but through slightly different sets of eyes, or through no eyes at all, as in
Catherdral. Morrison writes of these same struggles through yet another set
of eyes (beautiful brown ones that she wishes were blue). Tolstoy writes through
the eyes of a man struggling with his last moments on earth, who feels utterly
alone and in despair until the routine kindness of his servant Gerasim allows
him to go peacefully from the world. All this talk of being unable to quantify
"community" in these short stories, or to "stratify stratifications"
takes some of the beauty and mystery out of this mystifying story about a simple
moment of clarity for one person trying to "connect" with another
who seems so different from himself. Carver, at his best, lets us feel that
we are all a part of this community, no matter how different or petty we may
seem to each other. My personal favorite story is "A small, good thing",
in which a mean and petty baker, not a family member, and not a physician, is
the one who ends up comforting a couple in terrible need. We all can learn much
from Raymond Carver if we listen for the long pauses and let his stories and
characters resonate with us.
Russ Kolarik <email@example.com>
Cincinnati, OH USA - Saturday, June 07, 1997 at 02:12:01 (EDT)
I think you've put into words the feelings of many of Carver's fans. How fortunate
you were to spend a month with Robert Coles! Listening for the "long pauses"
reminds me of the drawing exercise where the artist draws, not the object at
hand, but the empty spaces around it. After the empty spaces are drawn, the
object comes into focus. I think Marilyn alluded to this in the radio discussion.
Recently, a man told me that Carver's story "So Much Water So Close to
Home" was the most powerful work of feminist fiction he's ever read and
a woman friend said to me that she felt sorry for Stuart (the insensitive husband)
and understood his inability to express himself. Is Carver a feminist writer?
Any thoughts anyone?
David Kurz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Athens, OH USA - Tuesday, June 10, 1997 at 10:39:24 (EDT)
I thought the
idea of having a discussion about Raymond Carver's work revolving around the
theme of community was a good and interesting one. I was disappointed by its
execution, however. Unfortunately what occurred, which I read in transcript,
failed to consider that theme with any depth. I found what the panelists had
to say cliched and too narrowly concerned with trite critical ideas. For the
future I offer the suggestion that the panelists drop, as much as they can,
their academic agendas and prejudices, and examine the texts with as fresh and
unbiased an eye as possible. Carver, like many of the greatest writers, is "difficult"
in that he pulls no punches: his work is artistically uncompromising. Discussions
that argue over the categorization of Carver as a "minimalist," or
that spend time evaluating stories according to the "period" of Carver's,
or any writer's, artistic development, are largely missing the point. This kind
of esoterica is, I speculate, one of the reasons the public has, for the most
part, turned away from literary discussion, and literature, in general. They
are no longer engaged by what academics, who have historically until recently
been conduits for good and great literature, have to say. This is largely the
fault of the academics, who seem to have given up on the idea that they have
an almost sacred responsibility to the works, and to finding a way to communicate
the value of individual pieces of literature to the public, not just to each
other. They do literature itself a disservice. The kind of discussion the panelists
engaged in talks around the work, instead of speaking to it. In my experience,
that's a popular academic ploy that allows the speaker to avoid engaging the
text on the terms it demands. I hope in the future the panelists will engage
the work more, and save their "academic" concerns for the classroom,
where students may use the time profitably, perhaps catching up on their sleep.
Perhaps I have been too harsh. I do have hope for future discussions, and I
consider the idea of the series an inspired service to the reading community.
Thank you for giving it a try. Greg McCracken email@example.com
Greg McCracken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Burbank, CA USA - Tuesday, June 10, 1997 at 18:46:22 (EDT)
the feedback, Greg. Edgar and Marilyn also agree that they were "too academic"
and will focus more on "community reconsidered" in the upcoming radio
programs. They'll be back in the studio at the end of the month to revisit the
writings of Raymond Carver. This will give them a chance to redeem themselves!
So what they need from "us amateurs" (professors are welcome, too!)
are some opinions, comments and questions about Carver's stories and what, if
anything, they can teach us about community. So, we have a few more weeks to
talk about Carver and community. What is your favorite Carver story?
David Kurz <email@example.com>
Athens, OH USA - Wednesday, June 11, 1997 at 11:13:11 (EDT)
a course in Ray Carver's work at San Diego State University, and while I enjoyed
the panelists' discussion, I was particularly troubled by Edgar Whan's characterization
of "Cathedral" as a "simplistic" story. Of all the stories
discussed, that story is clearly most related to the "community" theme
that was ostensibly (but not actually) the subject of their discussion. The
narrator begins the story with no sense of community whatever--he lives in a
guarded and sheltered world of his own (like many of Carver's characters) and
views the world stereotypically. Anyone who seems different from himself is
an "Other" and he gets his ideas about others from the movies. "I
don't have any blind friends," he says early in the story, and his wife
responds, "You don't have ANY friends." This is a man who lives a
reclusive, isolated life, trapped in the prison of his own skin and his own
bigoted and skewered way of looking at the world. But then he comes into contact
with a REAL blind man rather than his stereotypical notion of one and things
begin to change. The story for me is about the breaktrough that can occur when
we view our fellow human beings as like us rather than as different from us,
when we make connections with one another--both physically and spiritually.
At the end of the story, the narrator actually touches Robert: "His fingers
rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in
my life up to now." This is the moment of insight that changes the narrator's
life, gets him outside of himself to recognize that he's part of a larger world.
The story's final lines emphasize this: "My eyes were still closed. I was
in my house. I knew that. But I didn't feel like I was inside anything."
Getting outside the confines of the self, seeing the world as others see it,
recognizing our common humanity and our common ground--these are the essential
elements of community, and I think Whan misses this completely when he calls
the story "simplistic." What's simplistic is to divide Carver's stories
into "uppers" and "downers" rather than to ask how truly
and deeply they reflect actual life, how much they teach us about what it means
to be a human being, in this time, in this place. "Cathedral" stikes
me as a profound statement of our humanity.
fred moramarco <firstname.lastname@example.org>
San Diego, CA USA - Wednesday, June 11, 1997 at 11:17:26 (EDT)
enjoyed hearing some of the discussion about Carver's background and influences
in the "academic discussion". It's always interesting to me to see
how the community the author lives in influences the community the author writes
about. I was tickled to see that Carver was influenced by the Russian novelists
-- David, was this a serendipitous coincidence or a planned thematic choice?
Also, sort of a tangent -- I also read the Jay McInerney article about Carver,
linked on the Carver page here. (McInerney is one of my faves!) I was struck
with how very gentle and soft-hearted Carver was described as being, particularly
considering the stark eye that he puts on his characters. It made me wonder
if writing in such an uncompromising way of characters caused him to be more
gentle with real-life people -- sort of a "to know all is to forgive all"
thing. Anyone know?
USA - Wednesday, June 11, 1997 at 12:16:24 (EDT)
This is the place where you can discuss Raymond Carver's stories. This guestbook
puts the most recent entry at the top, but if you go to the Raymond Carver page,
then you can read what others have said about Carver in the order they were
written. You can read the transcripts of the radio program about Carver or listen
if you have the RealAudio player. There is a link to the RealAudio site on our
first page. It's a free plug-in program that works with Netscape or Internet
Explorer. You'll also need a sound card and speakers. Fred and Rachel... I'm
glad you enjoyed the radio program. Fred, you write beautifully about Carver's
"Cathedral." Do you think it's fair to say that this uplifting story
is an exception to most of Carver's stories? What can we learn about community
from the stories that don't have a "happy ending?" Rachel, I'm glad
you enjoyed the Jay McInerney essay. If some of you haven't noticed, we have
linked to several essays and web pages about Carver on the Raymond Carver page,
including information about the Carver listserv. You might be interested in
subscribing to the listserv, Elizabeth.
David Kurz <email@example.com>
Athens, OH USA - Friday, June 13, 1997 at 09:20:49 (EDT)
seem to say very much about community in any large sense. Apparently a blind
man and the husband of his friend share a time of insight and connection when
this blind man came to visit. Despite this experience between two individuals
where the husband overcame some of his stereotypes of a blind person or least
enough tolerate to relate in a different way than stereotypical. If the large
community was in this story, it may have been represented in a cultural sense
where all three people over ate and drank substituting these activities for
closeness. What seems to matter most to me in this story was where the husband
and wife couldn't connect satisfactorily to each other. The husband desperately
wanted an expression from his wife of how much he had improved her life since
their marriage also the husband seem to feel uneasy about just what kind of
relationship she was having with the blind man. Yet when invited my his wife
to know about their relationship in greater depth he was not interested. And
at the end of the story he again block a greater sharing with his wife by not
sharing the experience he was having with the blind man. The overall atmosphere
of the story felt gloomy, sad, and heavy with alienation which partially is
what I am projecting into this story. If the point of this story is stereotype
of the handicapped can be overcome which is laudable, it still leave the larger
community purpose unfocused. How to unity the mass of people in a cohesive group
to some worthy purposes which hopefully may benefit all of us.
chico, ca USA - Sunday, June 15, 1997 at 18:22:36 (EDT)
in its entirety, "Where I'm Calling From", is an excellent example
of community and every day life ("Cathedral" and "The Calm"
stand out). Carver's stories depict relationships that reflect who we are and
why we are. They are not always pretty pictures (ex: Doreen and Earl's marriage
in "They Are Not Your Husband" - which, by the way, I really did not
feel the love between them, as someone else commented that they did when reading
it). But they are very accurate representations of people and our relationships
to each other, which is what community is all about. If we don't like what we
see, then we need to bring about ways to change it. Kelly
Kelly Holck <firstname.lastname@example.org>
USA - Tuesday, June 17, 1997 at 20:46:15 (EDT)
This is the
kind of literary discussion I've been looking for - I've long enjoyed R. Carver,
which is what drew me to this site. I'm brand new here; haven't participated
at all yet.
Christel J. Olson <email@example.com>
Honolulu, HIHh USA - Tuesday, June 24, 1997 at 14:22:04 (EDT)
After listening and reading the (Carver discussion) transcript, my principal comment would be that the level of critique and appreciation of Carver's work was, to say the least, quite impressive. The opinions were divergent, as they should be in any discussion of fine literary fiction, but they were expressed cogently, intelligently, so that there was no doubt that even the demurrer(s) got Carver.
As to ideas, I can only again offer that I am available to answer any questions your audience may have about Ray Carver. I do not wish to be construed as the Carver authority, but after all I did write the book on Carver (bad pun). At readings of my book, I answer the frequently asked question as to what was Ray really like, by suggesting they read his book Fires before they go on to read any of his other collections and to pay particular attention to his wonderful poetry.
I do not believe
there was much mentioned in your program about his poetry. Ray was most proud
of that aspect of his writing, Indeed, when he discovered that his illness was
incurable, he ceased writing fiction, but wrote another thirty or so poems before
his death including What The Doctor Said and Gravy, the poem cut into his gravestone.
Contrary to held opinion, the essay on Friendship in which he discusses how
in the midst of life, ever present death factors in his relationship with close
friends Richard Ford and Tobias Wolff, was written before he was remotely aware
of his tragic illness. The only other comment I would make is that the brief
mention of Maryann Carver on your program was a bit unfair. In my interviews
with Bill Kittredge, Leonard Michaels, Doug Unger, Geoffrey Wolff, as well as
with Maryann and Ray's daughter, it is clear that after all, had it not been
for her, Ray probably would not have ever become a writer, and most likely would
have died a drunk, clicking his heels on the streets of San Francisco. I remain
at heart your basic Carver aficionado, and still draw a deep empathetic breath
when people tell me that I cried the day I heard Ray died.
Wednesday, June 25, 1997 at 16:38:16 (EDT)
I first discovered Carver back in college. My film theory professor had us read his stories and discuss them with films. I was mesmerized. I found his stories thought provoking and memorable. And as a black female, I felt I was seeing lower/middle class white America through the eyes of one of their own. Ironically, I'm a bit apprehensive to show the Hurston/Morrison discussions because most non-black Americans believe that they are speaking for all of black Americans (women). As a suburbanite, I can say that this is not true. So, I admit that I am being prejudice when I discuss Carver. However, when I read his works, I can't image a black man living a life of some of his characters. I find that his female characters are more universal to all women. Especially in, "So Much Water Close To Home". I believe that any woman who reads this story can see herself in this position.
I have been asking the question--Did Carver associate with other black or hispanic (male) writers. I'd love to see an anthology of his works with other 20th Century Male Writers (Garcia Marquez and Ernest Gaines for instance). It would be an excellent example of male writers depicting the US of A in this century.
some reason, I have trouble turning others on to Carver. Has anyone else had
this problem? (My mother found his stories dry and my boyfriend, (a white man-mind
you) told me he couldn't get into them.) Are we some unique group?
Julie Gittens <JAGITTE@aol.com>
Pomona, NY USA - Wednesday, June 25, 1997 at 18:08:51 (EDT)
Mr. Carver's stories, segments of our society or "community" are very well written. They are people who are calling from a deep need to know who they are and where they are going. For the most part, they are people who cry out for the help they are unable to provide for themselves. They resort to alcohol or other means to survive in their uncertain world. Their ability to cope with the larger community is limited by their inability to cope with their own lives. In his signature story "Where I'm Calling From" they are all a part of a relevant community.
They are all there for basically the same reason and need, and some like J.P. knows he needs to stay rather than go home. In "Bicycles, Muscles and Cigarettes" the boy wants to know what his father was like when he was nine. He needs to know this to know who he is at this time in his life. The mother in "Boxes" is constantly moving to find what she needs, she will never find it because she does not know what she needs or even what she even wants. In "Actual Miles" the husband is inadequate in finances and his marriage. She goes out to sell the car and when she comes home, he is torn by his need to know what happened and why. He makes an appointment for Monday with the salesman, but he will not find his answer. In "Cathedral," you have a husband unable to cope with a larger part of the community, totally unable to communicate or understand one man's disability. In addition, torn by his own weakness, he is unable to trust his own wife.
In final, Carver's
writings are an interesting insight into some of the weaknesses and segments
of our society. Sometimes slightly depressing, yet great.
Dick Stevens <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Athens, OH USA - Monday, July 14, 1997 at 09:44:58 (EDT)
My family and
I read and discuss Raymond Carver and Tolstoy regularly. Ivan Ilych is a man
who has succeeded in his career, has a healthy family, etc. Most people look
up to such men... doctors, lawyers, and judges. Ivan, however, has ignored thinking
about and working on his relationships, which are sick in much the same way
we find in some of Carver's stories. Carver, however, depicts characters unlike
Ivan, in that they not only have no positive control over their relationships,
but they also are failures in more superficial things like their careers (with
a few minor exceptions). All such failures nag at most anyone on a regular basis,
and it is my hope that reading and discussing such issues can help us come to
a better understanding of what it is to live a good life. This would allow us,
unlike Ivan, to learn to live before we die.
Sean Walsh <email@example.com>
Chapel Hill, NC USA - Wednesday, July 23, 1997 at 02:22:06 (EDT)
was still alive when I discovered his writing. His book "Where I'm Calling
From" and "Will You Be Quiet Please" demonstrated his ability
to cut right to the bone with elegant sparing words. I was also very interested
in his relationship with Tess Gallagher as it flew in the face of what he believed
before she lifted him up and let him observe his own brilliance. I have a fascination
with her and her work, it was such an influence on him. I'm very excited to
see the attention she is getting on this site, as she is Carver's torch-bearer.
He was so amazed when she stayed with him. He had a terrible time when his hair
fell out. It was devastating to him. Photographs of that time show him sitting
by the river near their home. It was a terrible loss when Carver lost his battle.
I wish I had gotten here sooner to participate in the discussion. Thanks for
this topic, it's a wonderful site. Elizabeth
Elizabeth Norcross <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Martha's Vineyrd, MA USA - Wednesday, August 20, 1997 at 07:48:27 (EDT)
Carver be considered a stream of consciousness writer?
jessica rozzo <email@example.com>
tallahassee, fl USA - Saturday, November 22, 1997 at 13:34:49 (EST)
I am writing
a research paper on the similarities between Carver's life and his stories.
I would like to hear what anyone has to say.
USA - Sunday, November 23, 1997 at 12:40:11 (EST)
Thank you for
the wonderful discussion of Raymond Carver. Does anyone have any insight into
the title story "Where I'm Calling From?" What is the meaning of the
parallel desriptions of the chimney sweep and the landlord painting the house
and the two mens' different reactions to these intruders in their homes?
Melanie Gosslin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Elk Grove, CA USA - Thursday, November 27, 1997 at 12:05:48 (EST)
I like Carver's
stories because they are always gentle and calm. There is no evil in them. I
think that's because Carver loves all people, not only the weak but also the
loser. He has a generous mind to admit and accept human's weakness and desolation.
I also like his poems. They are very calm and peaceful, but also deep. I like
the way he finishes the poems. He surely knows what love is, what life is. He
seems to know surely all of small good things in the world. I could be healed
by his work.
Fusari IKeda <email@example.com>
JAPAN - Saturday, January 17, 1998 at 07:39:04 (EST)
I think Raymond
Carver is one of the most interesting writers of the last times and deserves
to be ranked together with the most eminent masters of the short fiction. In
fact, now I'm doing my thesis work on him. Maybe you could help me with some
material. Please... I want to do a good thing, but I lack the necessary information.
Pablo Villa Moreno <firstname.lastname@example.org>
VALPARAISO, CHILE - Wednesday, January 21, 1998 at 19:10:16 (EST)
I have to say
that I can't stomach the rewrite of "The Bath"--"A Small, Good
Thing". The power of the original seemed to me to lie in the anonymity
of the baker. He didn't really seem like such a wonderful guy right from the
outset, when the mother goes to order the cake. Finally, though, he's turned
into a malevolent figure. He isn't just indifferent. In trying to come to grips
with their impossible situation, the parents are faced with this faceless, disembodied
evil in the baker. Maybe his calls have more to say to them about their situation
than we'd like to believe. The rewrite is watered down. Everything that made
the original so powerful is changed. The effect is similar to that of a half-hour
sitcom, in which the deepest of problems are solved, giving all the emotion
a sort of Hallmark quality. Maybe I'm saying more about myself than I am about
Carver, but I don't believe it for a second. Incidentally, you folks were wrong
about "So Much Water So Close to Home" being the only one with a female
narrator (or an limited omniscient narrator in a female's head, or whatever).
"Chef's House" in the Cathedral collection is another example. I really
enjoyed listening to your conversation, until my audio crapped out. Keep up
the good work, etc.
USA - Sunday, February 15, 1998 at 16:10:16 (EST)
HI, I NEED
SOME HELP ON ONE CARVER'S ESSAYS. THE NAME OF THE BOOK IS WHAT WE TALK ABOUT
WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LOVE. THE ESSAY IN THE BOOK IS TITLED VIEWFINDER. I'M WRITING
A PAPER ITS DUE TODAY IF I COULD GET SOME HELP SOON BEFORE TOMORROW, I WOULD
BE SO GRATEFUL. JUST LOOKING FOR A CRITIQUE OF THE ESSAY.. THANX HECTOR
HECTOR GARZA <email@example.com>
San Jose , CA USA - Thursday, February 19, 1998 at 15:35:32 (EST)
I was wondering
if someone could help me with the theme of "The Cathedral" by Raymond
Carver. I was having
some trouble figuring out what it actually was. Thank you.
Andre Radloff <Mstrpce420@aol.com>
Iowa City, Ia USA - Wednesday, February 25, 1998 at 15:37:02 (EST)
I enjoyed reading
the transcripts of your discussions about Raymond Carver, they were an eye opener.
To cut to the chase, I'm a scribbler who's trying to write an article connecting
Carver's work to those of Franz Kafka. You may think that's lunatic, but I personally
see a link of sorts between the two, in their tragically short lives, their
need to juggle their artistic considerations and so on, but especially in the
attention and currency they gain from the small, incidental, subconscious elements
in our lives and their true and greater significance (think of Carver's early
story "The Hair", where it is expressed more forthrightly than in
his later work, and the opening chapter of Amerika, or indeed, the whole of
the Trial). I could go on, but I doubt your guestbook has the room.. Basically
I'm interested in finding out more on Carver's sources (the Russian is obvious)
early life and especially about the way working. I'd really like to get a look
at his letters and was wondering whether I could find any on the net? Anyhow,
if anyone can help I'd be grateful. I have the idea of the piece, I need to
grow some meat on it. I'd also like to say that I think "Cathedral"
is the most beautiful story I have ever read, in every important way.
Mitchell Millar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Edinburgh, Scotland - Sunday, May 24, 1998 at 09:57:25 (EDT)
That was wonderful
listening to the critics talk about Carver. His works still move me into a soul-space,
a quieting-down. I have most of his books and a critical analysis and still
delight in revisiting them often. Thanks for this episode - helped me clean
up my lounge room and avoid some work I needed to do! ....my poems deserve to
be eaten by mice....to paraphrase Carver!
Jenny Quealy <email@example.com>
Blue Mountains, NSW Australia - Monday, August 24, 1998 at 09:40:42 (EDT)
I need literary
criticism on Carver's "Cathedral" and I have searched the internet
and checked out local library books, but have not come up with much. Any suggestions?
Chad R Young <RMY2BO>
Millersville, Md USA - Tuesday, November 17, 1998 at 15:42:48 (EST)
what do you
mean by, "All happy families resembles one another, each unhappy family
is unhappy in its own way"? i have to do a research on how above statement
can be applied in "A Night Out","Chicken Soup With Barley"
and "Father and Son".
kuala lumpur, selangor malaysia - Saturday, November 21, 1998 at 23:09:03 (EST)
any idea why 'little things' from the book 'where i am calling from' is titled
amanda ong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
woodlands, singapore - Tuesday, December 29, 1998 at 22:31:15 (EST)
I'm doing a
thesis on carver's short stories and I'm interested in the revisions that he
made of his stories. I would like to know more about the changes that, as somebody
affirms, have been made by the editor Gordon Lish.
lamezia terme, catanzaro italy - Sunday, January 31, 1999 at 16:01:15 (EST)
Here's an essay,
Carver Chronicles" by D.T. Max. Carver's relationship with his editor,
Gordon Lish, is highlighted. (NY Times, 8/9/98). Good luck! --David
David Kurz <email@example.com>
Athens, OH USA - Monday, February 01, 1999 at 12:25:10 (EST)
I need your
help because I'm desperately trying to participate at the seminar on Raymond
Carver, held by Fred Moramarco,but without success. What do I have to do? Please
help me!I subscribed to the listserv many times but they never found any request.Please,
tell me what to do! Thanks in advance. Emanuela.
lamezia terme, cz italy - Wednesday, February 10, 1999 at 12:21:09 (EST)
to contact the Carver listserv, but I think it has become inactive. Also, I
believe Fred Moramarco's online seminar about Raymond Carver may not be offered
this semester at his university, San Diego State. Fred has a lot of good Carver
resources listed on his page, which is still up. You can go to the Community
Reconsidered page at http://www.tcom.ohiou.edu/books/recon.htm
and click on "more resources" in the Raymond Carver section to find
a link to Fred Moramarco's pages.
David Kurz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Athens, OH USA - Friday, February 12, 1999 at 14:16:19 (EST)
first of all I want to thank you for your help.You have been very kind. I want
to ask you if you know how I can find the original Carver's stories, those that
he wrote before the publication of the collection " What We Talk About
When We Talk About Love". Sorry if I'm asking you more and more but it
is very important for me to know a lot about Carver's work.Thank you again.
lamezia terme, cz italy - Saturday, February 13, 1999 at 11:29:47 (EST)
I really don't know. --David
David Kurz <email@example.com>
Athens, OH USA - Thursday, February 18, 1999 at 16:30:17 (EST)
author of Raymond Carver: An Oral Biography and When We Talk about Raymond Carver:
Conversations with Maryann Carver has answered Emanuela's question posted below.
Here's what Sam says:
"Emanuela is looking for stories Carver wrote prior to What We Talk About ... She might try his first collection Furious Seasons, although that volume may be somewhat difficult to locate these days. Other choices, more available, would be Fires, and most certainly Will You Please Be Quiet, Please."
David Kurz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Athens, OH USA - Friday, February 19, 1999 at 10:21:34 (EST)
"For Amanda from Singapore --- No way to know for sure why 'Little Things' ---- Perhaps because of the brevity of the story.... or babies are little things ... or who knows? It may be an improvement of its other title, 'Popular Mechanics.' (ugh!)"
Thanks again, Sam!!
David Kurz <email@example.com>
Athens, OH USA - Friday, February 19, 1999 at 12:57:28 (EST)
need info on
r carver the cathedral
jillian maderious <firstname.lastname@example.org>
fresno, ca USA - Wednesday, March 17, 1999 at 00:30:05 (EST)
You can continue the discussion of Raymond Carver at the Community Reconsidered discussion forum.
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