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Raymond Carver - Essay Example

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According to his biography (Liukkonen), Raymond Carver was born in 1938 in Oregon. His father, a sawmill worker, was an alcoholic, and although his father shaped him by the stories he told, Carver found it difficult to deal with his father's alcoholism. He attended school in Yakima, California, and married his 16-year old high school sweetheart, MaryAnn, who was pregnant with their daughter…
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Raymond Carver
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Raymond Carver

When the family moved to California, Carver became interested in writing and took a course from John Gardner, which had a profound effect on him. He continued his studies at Chico State University, Humboldt State College, and the University of Iowa. He earned a BA in 1963. He became a textbook editor at Science Research Associates, Palo Alto, but was fired in 1970. He went on to teach at universities throughout the United States and from 1980-1983 was a professor of English at Syracuse University.
While Carver was at Humboldt, he wrote his first story, "Pastoral," as well as his first poem, "The Brass Ring." Although his biography states he started his writing career as a poet, he confessed he was never a "born" poet (Liukkonen) and although he eventually had his poetry published, it never received the acclaim of his short stories. His story "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please" was written in 1967 and with the editing expertise of Gordon Lish, he published a collection of stories of the same name set in Eureka, California in 1976 (Boddy). During the ensuing years, alcohol was a problem for him and drinking became a full-time pursuit. In fact, alcohol became a subject in several of his stories. On June 2, 1977, Carver stopped drinking and became active in Alcoholics Anonymous. He begin seeing poet Tess Gallagher and divorced his wife MaryAnn in 1982. He lived with Gallagher and married her two months before he died from lung cancer in 1988 (Liukkonen).
Carver has said that everything we write is, in some way, autobiographical. In a New York Times article he said he considered the short story a vehicle for transforming the commonplace and said, "it is possible to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader's spine" (Carver par. 9). His writing style is muted and anticlimactic but creates a tense atmosphere. His life is basically divided into two sections, one before he gave up drinking and met Tess and one after. "Cathedral," a short story contained in a collection by the same name, gives him the chance to write in retrospect, utilizing his life experiences in the first section of his life as part of his writing within the second part of his life. His father's alcoholism possibly led to Carver's addiction to alcohol since an addictive personality can be and often is passed down. "Cathedral" was published in 1983, after Carver had joined AA, but the characters in the story spend a great deal of time in intervals of drinking and smoking marijuana. There are three characters in the story-the narrator, his wife, and a blind man. The narrator, who would appear to be based on Carver himself, distances himself from the story by being an observer rather than a participant-at least at first. As the story progresses, he unobtrusively fixes himself drinks, and although it is never evident or brought out, the excess drinking throughout the story labels him as an alcoholic, albeit a recovering alcoholic..
He refers to his wife's friend as "this blind man," and it is clear he is dismissing any personal interest in the man's forthcoming visit. "I wasn't enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew" (Carver "Cathedral" 1). Even so, he offers the reader background on the ... Read More
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