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Dirty Realist

Michael Foley, 2 May 1985

Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories 
by Raymond Carver.
Harvill, 204 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 00 271243 1
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The Stories of Raymond Carver 
Picador, 447 pp., £3.50, May 1985, 0 330 28552 1Show More
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... Raymond Carver is a typically American hero, a kind of literary Rocky – janitor, delivery man, sawmill operator, servicestation attendant, an uneducated alcoholic no-hoper who rises to Major Writer status and the Professorship of English at Syracuse University. Most writers would give a right arm for such authentic redneck credentials and one can be sure that most funky jobs listed on blurbs were only held for a couple of weeks during summer vacations ...
... RC: When I came to the writing of these poems I hadn’t written any for about two years. I’d been writing stories, and I didn’t know if I’d ever write any more poems. I felt writing poetry might have passed out of my life. I lamented that, but it didn’t seem as if there was anything I could consciously do about it. Then I went from Syracuse, New York out to Washington State, with the intention of writing fiction ...

Less and More

Adam Begley, 15 September 1988

Elephant, and Other Stories 
by Raymond Carver.
Collins Harvill, 124 pp., £9.95, August 1988, 0 00 271912 6
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The Tidewater Tales 
by John Barth.
Methuen, 655 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 413 18770 5
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... Raymond Carver, acclaimed shot-story writer and poet, died on 2 August. A painstaking craftsman, he wrote most often about working-class Americans whose lives are, or have been, on the verge of collapse. Broken marriages, alcoholism, poverty, and acute, debilitating anxiety – these things rule the daily existence of his characters ...

Why the birthday party didn’t happen

Michael Wood, 10 March 1994

Short Cuts 
directed by Robert Altman.
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Short Cuts: The Screenplay 
by Robert Altman and Frank Barhydt.
Capra/Airlift, 144 pp., £12.99, October 1993, 0 88496 378 0
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Short Cuts 
by Raymond Carver, introduced by Robert Altman.
Harvill, 157 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 00 272704 8
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... and although there are fourteen or fifteen stories here (based on extrapolated from ten stories by Raymond Carver – the handouts and the introduction solemnly say nine stories and a poem, but the so-called poem is also a prose narrative), they are intricately stitched together, like a miniaturised Comédie humaine set in Los Angeles. A doctor in a story ...

No Tricks

Frank Kermode: Raymond Carver, 19 October 2000

Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Prose 
by Raymond Carver.
Harvill, 300 pp., £15, July 2000, 1 86046 759 8
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... Raymond Carver was much taken with the idea that every writer creates a distinctive world: ‘Every great or even very good writer makes the world over according to his own specifications … It is his world and no other.’ The idea is hardly original but one sees why he liked it. Carver’s world is something like a room in which the television is always on, unless you happen to be subjecting the neighbours to home movies ...

Imbued … with Exigence

Christopher Tayler: Rachel Cusk, 22 September 2005

In the Fold 
by Rachel Cusk.
Faber, 224 pp., £10.99, September 2005, 0 571 22813 5
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... street. She wonders what the book group would make of Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus, or Raymond Carver, or Richard Yates’s reissued Revolutionary Road, a whole novel about a married couple arguing. What about Alice Munro? Could she attract them, truthful, small-scale and brilliant as she is? Or would they not have it, the clear reflection of ...

What the doctor said

Edna Longley, 22 March 1990

A New Path to the Waterfall 
by Raymond Carver.
Collins Harvill, 158 pp., £11, September 1989, 0 00 271043 9
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Wolfwatching 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, September 1989, 0 571 14167 6
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Poems 1954-1987 
by Peter Redgrove.
Penguin, 228 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 14 058641 5
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The First Earthquake 
by Peter Redgrove.
Secker, 76 pp., £7.50, August 1989, 0 436 41006 0
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Mount Eagle 
by John Montague.
Bloodaxe, 75 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 1 85224 090 3
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The Wreck of the Archangel 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 116 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 7195 4750 4
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The Perfect Man 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Abacus, 96 pp., £3.99, November 1989, 0 349 10122 1
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... are good prose. But when a prose voice enters poetry, it can clear and freshen the air. Beside Raymond Carver’s posthumous collection, the others I have been reading seem musty, costumed, made-up. Anyone who finds his poems flat or prosaic might consider Edward Thomas’s defence of Robert Frost: ‘if his work were printed [as prose] it would have ...

Icicles by Cynthia

Clarence Brown, 21 March 1996

The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov 
edited by Dmitri Nabokov.
Knopf, 659 pp., $35, October 1995, 0 394 58615 8
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... to favour a breathing period that is either long or short. Chekhov, Borges, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver were short-story writers. Dostoevsky, Faulkner and (horrified as he would be to find himself with this lot) Vladimir Nabokov were novelists. If your destiny lies in one form, the other is seldom hospitable. O’Connor’s short fiction was the ...

A Simpler, More Physical Kind of Empathy

Lorna Sage: Haruki Murakami, 30 September 1999

South of the Border, West of the Sun 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel.
Harvill, 187 pp., £9.99, July 1999, 1 86046 594 3
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin.
Harvill, 609 pp., £12, May 1998, 9781860464706
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... and traditional signs of ‘roots’ is of a piece with the fact that he was a fan of the work of Raymond Carver, and became his Japanese translator. South of the Border is a minimalist’s novel. A 1984 interview with Carver is commemorated in a Carver poem: We sipped tea, politely ...

Knowing

Frank Kermode, 3 December 1981

Bliss 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 296 pp., £6.50, November 1981, 0 571 11769 4
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Exotic Pleasures 
by Peter Carey.
Picador, 192 pp., £1.95, October 1981, 0 330 26550 4
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... the element of fantasy, much resemblance: McEwan has much more assurance and resource, and so has Raymond Carver, a writer virtually unknown in this country who superficially resembles Carey but is – up to now, at any rate – working at quite a different level. All the same, Exotic Pleasures is an accomplished book. So, for that matter, is Bliss, for ...

Put it away, like a good girl

August Kleinzahler, 16 March 2000

Where I Live Now: Stories 1993-98 
by Lucia Berlin.
Black Sparrow, 240 pp., $25, March 1999, 1 57423 091 3
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... looking for resemblances to more familiar contemporary American fiction might well seize on Raymond Carver. At the most superficial level, the titles of their books have a similar, poker-faced off-handedness which counterpoints the gravity and bleakness of their subject-matter. Carver: Will You please Be ...

Very Tight Schedule

Theo Tait, 1 June 2000

Driving the Heart 
by Jason Brown.
Cape, 224 pp., £10, January 2000, 0 224 06053 8
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... end of the second page – as is the case in so many American short stories – the long shadow of Raymond Carver has fallen unmistakably over the narrative. The narrator describes his unusual line of work and various grotesque experiences from his past in an apparently straightforward style. For example, he was once in a car crash caused by a deer on the ...

Bad Dads

Zachary Leader, 6 April 1995

In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of a Lost War 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 210 pp., £12.99, November 1994, 0 7475 1919 6
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Tallien: A Brief Romance 
by Frederic Tuten.
Marion Boyars, 152 pp., £9.95, November 1994, 0 7145 2990 7
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Roommates: My Grandfather’s Story 
by Max Apple.
Little, Brown, 241 pp., £12.99, November 1994, 0 316 91241 7
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... an undistinguished career at Concrete High in Concrete, Washington, smack in the heart of Raymond Carver country). On the penultimate page of the book, he enlists in the Army, eager to embrace ‘the clear life of uniforms and ranks and weapons. It seemed to me when I got there that this was where I had been going all along, and where I might ...

Veering Wildly

Kirsty Gunn: Jayne Anne Phillips, 30 July 2014

Quiet Dell 
by Jayne Anne Phillips.
Cape, 445 pp., £18.99, April 2014, 978 0 224 09935 6
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... Less known here than in the US, where she’s gathered up all sorts of prizes for stories that Raymond Carver described as ‘unlike any in our literature’, Jayne Anne Phillips has always written this way. Her writing territory, though recognisably American (she appeared in the 1983 issue of Granta that introduced a new kind of writing from the US ...

Turtle upon Turtle

Christian Lorentzen: Nathan Englander, 22 March 2012

What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank 
by Nathan Englander.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £12.99, February 2012, 978 0 297 86769 2
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... drinking in the manner of the couples in ‘What We Talk about When We Talk about Love’, the Raymond Carver story that was famously rewritten and retitled (from ‘Beginners’) by his editor, Gordon Lish. Englander’s couples engage in a competitive discussion about ethnic authenticity, and the Anne Frank game is its didactic climax. It’s the ...

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