Raymond Carver

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

:: Poet Home :: Poetry :: Short Stories :: Contact ::
Raymond Carver

Born: May 25, 1938(1938-05-25)
Clatskanie, Oregon, United States
Died: August 2, 1988 (aged 50)
Port Angeles, Washington, United States
Occupation: Writer
Nationality: American
Writing period: 1960–1988
Literary movement: Minimalism, Dirty realism
Debut works: Furious Seasons

Raymond Clevie Carver, Jr. (May 25, 1938 – August 2, 1988) was an American short story writer and poet. Carver is considered a major American writer of the late 20th century and also a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s.


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Writing
  • 3 Works
    • 3.1 Fiction
      • 3.1.1 Collections
      • 3.1.2 Compilations
      • 3.1.3 Some individual stories
    • 3.2 Poetry
      • 3.2.1 Collections
      • 3.2.2 Compilations
    • 3.3 Screenplays
    • 3.4 Essays, Poems, Stories (Uncollected Works)
  • 4 Films
  • 5 Books about Carver
  • 6 External links


Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, a mill town on the Columbia River, and grew up in Yakima, Washington. His father, a sawmill worker, was an alcoholic. Carver's mother worked on and off as a waitress and a retail clerk. His one brother, James Franklin Carver, was born in 1943.

Carver was educated at local schools in Yakima, Washington. In his spare time he read mostly novels by Mickey Spillane or publications such as Sports Afield and Outdoor Life and hunted and fished with friends and family. After graduating from Davis High School in 1956, Carver worked with his father at a sawmill in California. In June of 1957, aged 19, he married 16-year-old Maryann Burk. She had just graduated from a private Episcopal school for girls. His daughter, Christine La Rae, was born in December of 1957. When their second child, a boy named Vance Lindsay, was born the next year, Carver was 20. Carver supported his family by working as a janitor, sawmill laborer, delivery man, and library assistant. During their marriage, Maryann worked as a waitress, salesperson, administrative assistant, and teacher.

Carver became interested in writing in California, where he had moved with his family because his wife's mother had a home in Paradise. Carver attended a creative-writing course, taught by the novelist John Gardner, who had a major influence on Carver's life and career. Carver continued his studies first at Chico State University and then at Humboldt State College in Arcata, California, where he was first published and studied with Richard Cortez Day and received his B.A. in 1963. He attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, at the University of Iowa, for one year. Maryann graduated from San Jose State College in 1970 and taught English at Los Altos High School until 1977.

In the mid-60s Carver and his family lived in Sacramento, where he worked as a night custodian at Mercy Hospital. He sat in on classes at what was then Sacramento State College including workshops with poet Dennis Schmitz. Carver's first book of poems, Near Klamath, was published in 1968 by the English Club of Sacramento State College.

With his appearance in the respected "Foley collection," the impending publication of Near Klamath, and the death of his father, 1967 was a landmark year. That was also the year that he moved his family to Palo Alto, California, so that he could take a job as a textbook editor for Science Research Associates. He worked there until he was fired in 1970 for his inapproptiate writing style, too many active verbs. In the 1970s and 1980s as his writing career began to take off, Carver taught for several years at universities throughout the United States.

During the years of working in different jobs, rearing children, and trying to write, Carver started to drink heavily and stated that alcohol became such a problem in his life that he more or less gave up and took to full-time drinking. In the fall semester of 1973, Carver was a teacher in the Iowa Writers' Workshop with John Cheever, but Carver stated that they did less teaching than drinking and almost no writing. The next year, after leaving Iowa City, Cheever went to a treatment center to attempt to overcome his alcoholism, but Carver continued drinking for three years. After being hospitalized three times because of his drinking (between June of 1976 and February or March of 1977), Carver began his 'second life' and stopped drinking on June 2, 1977, with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In 1982, Carver and first wife, Maryann, were divorced.[1] From 1979 Carver had lived with the poet Tess Gallagher whom he had met at a writers' conference in El Paso, Texas in 1978. They married in 1988 in Reno, Nevada. Six weeks later, on August 2, 1988, Carver died in Port Angeles, Washington, from lung cancer at the age of 50. In the same year, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is buried at Ocean View Cemetery in Port Angeles, Washington. As his will directed, Tess Gallagher assumed the management of his literary estate.

In 2001 the novelist Chuck Kinder published Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale, a roman à clef about his friendship with Carver in the 1970s. In 2006 Maryann Burk Carver wrote a memoir of her years with Carver: What It Used To Be Like; A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver.


Carver's career was dedicated to short stories and poetry. He described himself as "inclined toward brevity and intensity" and "hooked on writing short stories" (in the foreword of Where I'm Calling From, a collection published in 1988—and a recipient of an honorable mention in the 2006 New York Times article citing the best works of fiction of the previous 25 years). Another stated reason for his brevity was "that the story [or poem] can be written and read in one sitting." This was not simply a preference but, particularly at the beginning of his career, a practical consideration as he juggled writing with work. His subject matter was often focused on blue-collar experience, and are clearly reflective of his own life. The same could probably be said of the recurring theme of alcoholism and recovery.

Carver's writing style and themes are often identified with Ernest Hemingway, Anton Chekhov, and Franz Kafka. Carver also referred to Isaac Babel, Frank O'Connor, and V. S. Pritchett as influences. Chekhov, however, seems the greatest influence, motivating him to write Errand, one of his final stories, about the Russian writer's final hours.

Minimalism is generally seen as one of the hallmarks of Carver's work. His editor at Esquire magazine, Gordon Lish, was instrumental in shaping Carver's prose in this direction - where his earlier tutor John Gardner had advised Carver to use fifteen words instead of twenty-five, Gordon Lish instructed Carver to use five in place of fifteen. Objecting to the "surgical amputation and transplantation" of Lish's editing, Carver eventually broke with him.[1]) During this time, Carver also submitted poetry to James Dickey, then poetry editor of Esquire. His style has also been described as Dirty realism, referring to a group of writers in the 1970s and 1980s that included Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff - two writers Carver was closely acquainted with - Ann Beattie, and Jayne Anne Phillips. These were writers who focused on the sadnesses and losses of the everyday lives of ordinary people—often lower-middle class or isolated and marginalized people who represent Henry David Thoreau's idea of living lives of "quiet desperation."

His first published story appeared in 1960, titled "The Furious Seasons". More florid than much of his later work, the story strongly bore the influence of William Faulkner. "Furious Seasons" was later used as a title for a collection of stories published by Capra Press, and can now be found in recent collections No Heroics, Please and Call If You Need Me.

His first collection, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, was first published in 1976; the title story had appeared in the Best American Short Stories 1967 collection. The collection itself was shortlisted for the National Book Award, though it sold fewer than 5,000 copies that year. He was nominated again in 1984 for his third major-press collection Cathedral, generally perceived as Carver's best. Also included in the collection are the award-winning 'A Small Good Thing', and 'Where I'm Calling From' - a story later selected by John Updike as one of the Best American Short Stories of the Century. Carver said that he saw the collection as a turning point in his career and a move towards a more mature, poetic and optimistic style.

His final (incomplete) collection of seven stories, titled Elephant in Britain (included in "Where I'm Calling From") was composed in the five years before his death. The nature of these stories, especially Errand, have led to some speculation that Carver was preparing to write a novel. Only one piece of this work has survived - an unpromising fragment "The Augustine Notebooks", printed in "No Heroics, Please".

Tess Gallagher published five Carver stories posthumously in "Call If You Need Me"; one of the stories ('Kindling') won an O. Henry Award in 1999. Prior to his death, Carver had won six O. Henry Awards for the stories 'Are These Actual Miles' (originally titled 'What is it?') (1972), 'Put Yourself in My Shoes' (1974), 'Are You A Doctor?' (1975), 'A Small, Good Thing' (1983), and 'Errand' (1988), respectively.




  • Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (first published 1976)
  • Furious Seasons (1977)
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981)
  • Cathedral (1983)
  • Elephant (1988)


  • Where I'm Calling From (1988)
  • Short Cuts: Selected Stories (1993) - (film tie-in)

Some individual stories

From Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?
  • "Fat"
  • "Nobody Said Anything"
  • "The Student's Wife"
  • "Neighbors"
  • "Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarets"
  • "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?"
From Furious Seasons
  • "Distance"
  • "Dummy" (revised title "The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off")
  • "So Much Water So Close to Home"
From What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
  • "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love"
  • "Why Don't You Dance?"
  • "Viewfinder"
  • "Mr Coffee And Mr Fixit"
  • "Gazebo"
  • "I Could See The Smallest Things"
  • "Sacks"
  • "The Bath"
  • "Tell The Women We're Going"
  • "After The Denim"
  • "So Much Water So Close To Home"
  • "The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off"
  • "A Serious Talk"
  • "The Calm"
  • "Popular Mechanics"
  • "Everything Stuck To Him"
  • "One More Thing"
From Cathedral
  • "Vitamins"
  • "Careful"
  • "Where I'm Calling From"
  • "Chef's House"
  • "Fever"
  • "Feathers"
  • "Cathedral"
  • "A Small, Good Thing"
From Elephant
  • "Boxes"
  • "Whoever Was Using This Bed"
  • "Blackbird Pie"
  • "Errand"



  • Near Klamath (1968)
  • Winter Insomnia (1970)
  • At Night The Salmon Move (1976)
  • Where Water Comes Together With Other Water (1985)
  • Ultramarine (1986)
  • A New Path To The Waterfall (1989)


  • In a Marine Light: Selected Poems (1988)
  • All of Us: The Collected Poems (1996)


  • Dostoevsky (1985, with Tess Gallagher)

Essays, Poems, Stories (Uncollected Works)

  • Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories (1983)
  • No Heroics, Please (1999)
  • Call if You Need Me (2000)

These books gather otherwise uncollected works. Fires covers Carver's career during the period 1966–82. The latter volumes were published posthumously, and include early fiction, essays, and reviews of other authors. Call if You Need Me was identical to No Heroics, Please apart from the replacement of poetry in the latter with new stories, two found in Carver's desk by his last partner, Tess Gallagher and three found in his archives by scholar William Stull.


  • Short Cuts directed by Robert Altman
  • Everything Goes directed by Andrew Kotatko
  • Jindabyne (based on So Much Water So Close to Home) directed by Ray Lawrence

Books about Carver

  • Stull, William L. and Gentry, Marshall Bruce (editors) (1990). Conversations With Raymond Carver (Literary Conversations Series). University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 0878054499. 
  • Stull, William L. and Carroll, Maureen P. (editors) (1993). Remembering Ray: A Composite Biography of Raymond Carver. Capra Press. ISBN 0884963705. 
  • Nesset, Kirk (1995). Stories Of Raymond Carver: A Critical Study. Ohio University Press. ISBN 0821411004. 
  • Carver, Maryann Burk (2006). What It Used to Be Like; A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-33258-0. 
  • Raymond Carver: And suddenly everything became clear to him
  • An indepth interview from 1985 in which Carver talks about his father, his early writing, his characters, and the 'dark humour' in some of his stories.
  • The Raymond Carver Page
  • Map of Port Angeles marked with Carver's 'haunts' such as the Odyssey Bookshop
  • Swaim, Don (1983, 1986). Audio interviews with Raymond Carver.
  • Koehne, David (1978). Echoes of Our Own Lives; An interview with Raymond Carver.
  • Yardley, Jonathan (2006). Raymond Carver's first wife remembers the influential American writer.. A review of Maryann Burk Carver's What It Used To Be Like; A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver
  • This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from a Wikipedia article. To access the original click here.
    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
    under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
    or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
    with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
    A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
    Free Documentation License".