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Geek Romance

Philip Connors: Junot Díaz, 20 March 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao 
by Junot Díaz.
Faber, 340 pp., £12.99, February 2008, 978 0 571 17955 8
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... a drug addict in the 1970s and seemed to transcend, once and for all, the lingering influence of Raymond Carver on the form. Here was a writer who’d gone to the dark side, deep into madness, yet returned to sanity with his sense of humour intact. It appeared to many of us borderline holy that Johnson could write with such lack of swagger and self-pity ...


John Lanchester, 8 March 1990

The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer 
by Tom Dardis.
Abacus, 292 pp., £3.99, February 1990, 0 349 10143 4
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... motion. This funny, ungenerous evocation of the ‘American Kafka’ is surely a version of Raymond Carver, the ‘American Chekhov’, as transmogrified by Updike’s imagination. Certainly alcohol plays a part in Carver’s work very similar to the one it does in Klegg’s. On the other hand, the real-life ...

Dirty Little Secret

Fredric Jameson: The Programme Era, 22 November 2012

The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 466 pp., £14.95, November 2012, 978 0 674 06209 2
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... Thomas Wolfe through Nabokov and John Barth, Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates, all the way to Raymond Carver), nor those of traditional aesthetics and literary criticism, which raise issues of value and try to define true art as this rather than that. The dialectical problems come in the reversals of class coding I have already mentioned. Whatever we ...

Smoking big cigars

David Herd, 23 July 1992

by Fred Voss.
Bloodaxe, 180 pp., £7.95, November 1991, 1 85224 198 5
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... a woman and a losing bet. He rarely strays far from the conventions of prose, having, like Raymond Carver, always written short stories in tandem with poetry, and though in his earliest writing he displays a toughened lyrical strain, he has tended increasingly to mistrust this type of response. In its stead he has evolved a terse, relentlessly ...


Colm Tóibín, 26 May 1994

Profane Friendship 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 387 pp., £15.99, April 1994, 0 224 03775 7
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... his tone goes against the grain of what became fashionable in American fiction, he shares with Raymond Carver and John Updike and others the feeling that homo erectus americanus, the life of any American male, its slow detail, is of intrinsic interest. His novel, when it appeared in 1991, was both praised and sneered at. His florid style and his long ...


Mary Hawthorne, 10 November 1994

The Informers 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 226 pp., £9.99, October 1994, 0 330 32671 6
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... of virtually every young American writer coming of age in the Eighties, is heavily influenced by Raymond Carver, but he shares none of Carver’s wonder at his creations and certainly none of his feeling for their banality. Clay makes only a cameo appearance in Ellis’s second book, The Rules of Attraction, a campus ...


Robert Tashman, 9 March 1995

directed by Robert Altman.
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... was admired by some people because it was an adaptation, though a leaden one, of the work of Raymond Carver – who, in death, is more highly regarded than any other American writer of fiction of recent years. Prêt-à-Porter has flaws, but its strengths are considerable; I think it is Altman’s best work since Nashville (1975), which it resembles ...

Most losers are self-made men

Theo Tait: Richard Ford, 5 July 2012

by Richard Ford.
Bloomsbury, 420 pp., £18.99, June 2012, 978 0 7475 9860 2
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... American writers who emerged in the 1970s and early 1980s, particularly Ford, Tobias Wolff and Raymond Carver. (Ford has said that Carver didn’t mind when ‘I adopted as my own’ the direct style of his short story openings.) They tended to write about ordinary, hard lives in a spare, detached way, with much ...

Other Things

J.I.M. Stewart, 2 February 1984

Soor Hearts 
by Robert Alan Jamieson.
Paul Harris, 166 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 86228 072 9
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The Life and Loves of a She-Devil 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 240 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 9780340332283
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by Raymond Carver.
Collins, 230 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 00 222790 8
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The Cannibal Galaxy 
by Cynthia Ozick.
Secker, 162 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 436 35483 7
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The Collected Works of Jane Bowles 
introduced by Truman Capote.
Peter Owen, 476 pp., £10.95, January 1984, 0 7206 0613 6
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Let it come down 
by Paul Bowles.
Peter Owen, 318 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 7206 0614 4
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... books are by American writers. ‘The Train’ is one of the shortest of the 12 stories in Raymond Carver’s Cathedral. It begins: ‘The woman was called Miss Dent, and earlier that evening she’d held a gun at a man. She’d made him get down in the dirt and plead for his life.’ We learn nothing more about Miss Dent, except that now in the ...

Problem Parent

Michael Wood, 17 August 1989

Memories of Amnesia 
by Laurence Shainberg.
Collins Harvill, 190 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 00 272024 8
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We find ourselves in Moontown 
by Jay Gummerman.
Cape, 174 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 224 02662 3
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The Russia House 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 344 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 340 50573 7
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My Secret History 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 468 pp., £13.95, June 1989, 0 241 12369 0
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... and unforced talent. The writing isn’t like anyone’s I can think of, but the names of Raymond Carver and J.D. Salinger may point us roughly in the right direction. The prose is oblique and uninsistent, the stories are seemingly inconsequential: but you find yourself laughing and wanting to go back to see why. The opening story describes a ...

Wet Socks

John Bayley, 10 March 1994

The Complete Short Stories of Jack London 
edited by Elrae Labour, Robert Litz and I. Milo Shepard.
Stanford, 2557 pp., £110, November 1993, 0 8047 2058 4
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... kind which Hemingway was to perfect, and which is found in contemporary short-story writers like Raymond Carver, but a kind of solid interest in what happens next after one thing has happened. A traveller in the Frozen North has one or two bits of bad luck: socks and matches getting wet, things of that sort. They produce a deadly escalation which ...

His Big Typewriter

Eleanor Birne: Reading Hanif Kureishi reading his father, 6 January 2005

My Ear at His Heart: Reading My Father 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 198 pp., £12.99, September 2004, 0 571 22403 2
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... Roth tells him he should stick to fiction rather than films because of his verbal precision; Raymond Carver appears at Bill Buford’s for dinner; Claire Bloom has a passing and unjustified role). If there’s an excuse for the name-dropping, it’s Kureishi’s belief that a writer must have an intelligent and involved audience, something his ...

Come back if you can

Christopher Tayler: Jhumpa Lahiri, 24 October 2013

The Lowland 
by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Bloomsbury, 340 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 1 4088 2811 3
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... It isn’t hard to imagine her tacking lines from Chekhov and Isaac Babel above her desk, like Raymond Carver, or exclaiming, as Tolstoy is said to have done, of a businesslike sentence from Pushkin (‘The guests were arriving at the dacha of X’): ‘How charming! That is how one ought to write.’ Lahiri was born in London in 1967 and grew up in ...


Benjamin Lytal: Peter Stamm, 30 August 2012

Seven Years 
by Peter Stamm, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Granta, 264 pp., £14.99, April 2012, 978 1 84708 509 2
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... that critics in Germany and his native Switzerland are talking about when they compare Stamm to Raymond Carver. Take ‘The True Pure Land’, one of his more ‘naked’ stories. The narrator, a Swiss man working in New York for six months, lives in Spanish Harlem. He sits at his window, smoking, watching a woman opposite. His roommate, a man from ...

Stifled Truth

Wyatt Mason: Tobias Wolff and fictions of the self, 5 February 2004

Old School 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 195 pp., £12.99, February 2004, 0 7475 6948 7
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... resulted in his failure to include even a single story written in the Postmodern manner. Raymond Carver, to whom the volume was dedicated, was the anthology’s presiding deity, and the stories that made Wolff’s cut, like those for which Carver was famous, tended to highlight the fraught domestic dynamics of ...

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