I have seen Raymond Carver's name on several best American 20th century short story writers type lists over the last few months. A bit of quick pre-read research on Carver (1938 to 1988-Oregon, USA) seems to put him squarely in the hard drinking, scramble about life style of American writers such as Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway. He had a variety of jobs from night janitor at a hospital to instructor at the super prestigious Iowa Writer's Workshop. Wikipedia has a good article on him.
I have been in a sampling new to me writers mode this month so I thought I would read a story by Carver, if I could find one online. His work is still protected by American copyright law but I was able to find one story online. (As I have said before, there are no public libraries here in Manila and I do not wish to buy collections of new to me short story writers so my samples of new authors tend to be limited).
"Little Things" (first published in Popular Mechanics Magazine in 1977) gives us a look at a very nasty fight at what seems to be the break up of a couple that has had a baby together. These opening lines of the story will give you an idea of his prose style.
Early that day the weather turned and the snow was melting into dirty water. Streaks of it ran down from the little shoulder-high window that faced the backyard. Cars slushed by on the street outside, where it was getting dark. But it was getting dark on the inside too.
He was in the bedroom pushing clothes into a suitcase when she came to the door.
I'm glad you're leaving! I'm glad you're leaving! she said. Do you hear?
As the story goes on each one has one of the baby's arms and they are pulling on him in an effort to claim ownership. Hum-what to say here....? Is "Little Things" a marvelous example of literary minimalism or is it a "shock story" designed to take participants in college workshops on creative writing and readers of the Paris Review outside of their personal comfort zone? Is Carver an American enfant terrible?
I am glad I have now read one of Carver's stories. I would read one or two more of his works to get a better feel for him. Over all, I would say I would not buy a collection of his stories (for sure not at full retail!).
I could not help but imagine Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen trying to decide if this story is meant to be taken seriously or if it is an odd joke of some kind.
Please let me know what you think of Carver-
The story can be read online. I am glad I got to sample one of Carver's short stories.