STARRED REVIEW
December 2009

Saving literature, and eventually himself

In the pantheon of modern fiction, how important is Raymond Carver? Fellow writer Robert Pope once dubbed him the “salvation of American literature.” Charles McGrath, former editor of the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, called him the “bellwether for a whole generation.”

STARRED REVIEW

Saving literature, and eventually himself

December 2009

In the pantheon of modern fiction, how important is Raymond Carver? Fellow writer Robert Pope once dubbed him the “salvation of American literature.” Charles McGrath, former editor of the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, called him the “bellwether for a whole generation.”

STARRED REVIEW
December 2009

Saving literature, and eventually himself

December 2009

In the pantheon of modern fiction, how important is Raymond Carver? Fellow writer Robert Pope once dubbed him the “salvation of American literature.” Charles McGrath, former editor of the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, called him the “bellwether for a whole generation.”

STARRED REVIEW
December 2009

Saving literature, and eventually himself

In the pantheon of modern fiction, how important is Raymond Carver? Fellow writer Robert Pope once dubbed him the “salvation of American literature.” Charles McGrath, former editor of the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, called him the “bellwether for a whole generation.”

STARRED REVIEW
December 2009

Saving literature, and eventually himself

In the pantheon of modern fiction, how important is Raymond Carver? Fellow writer Robert Pope once dubbed him the “salvation of American literature.” Charles McGrath, former editor of the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, called him the “bellwether for a whole generation.”

December 2009

Saving literature, and eventually himself

In the pantheon of modern fiction, how important is Raymond Carver? Fellow writer Robert Pope once dubbed him the “salvation of American literature.” Charles McGrath, former editor of the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, called him the “bellwether for a whole generation.”

Share this Article:

In the pantheon of modern fiction, how important is Raymond Carver? Fellow writer Robert Pope once dubbed him the “salvation of American literature.” Charles McGrath, former editor of the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, called him the “bellwether for a whole generation.” And now Carol Sklenicka has written a wonderful biography of Carver that, at nearly 600 pages, is more than 10 times longer than anything Carver himself ever penned. Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life is a dense plumbing of the often bizarre life of the man whose spare, grinding tales of the poor and working class made him the most celebrated short-story writer of our time. Sklenicka chronicles Carver’s life from his modest beginnings through his death in 1988 from lung cancer—a peripatetic whirlwind of alcohol, writing and keeping one step ahead of the debt collector.

While it sometimes feels that Sklenicka offers Carver a free pass on his alcoholism—among other causes, she cites family responsibilities, heredity and even the national zeitgeist as reasons for his drunkenness—her book is a lushly researched necessity for anyone who loves literature. The story of Carver also chronicles the end of an era—the last group of authors for whom Dionysian excess was as necessary as limpid prose.

The only thing Carver appeared to enjoy as much as writing was the company of writers. Sklenicka’s book is thick with insider conversations, parties and first-person observations of some of the best-known writers of the last half-century. Prominent are Carver’s second wife, poet Tess Gallagher, and dozens of authors he considered friends, including Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff and Jay McInerney.

A Writer’s Life is also the perfect holiday companion to the recently released Raymond Carver: Collected Stories. The collection includes Beginners, the original manuscript for What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The manuscript version was nearly twice as long until pared liberally by editor Gordon Lish. Carver was so unhappy with the result he begged Lish to halt publication. Now here it is in its original form for all his fans to enjoy.  

Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life
By Carol Sklenicka
Scribner

ISBN 9780743262460

Raymond Carver: Collected Stories
By Raymond Carver
Library of America

ISBN 9781598530469

Get the Books

Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life

Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life

By Carol Sklenicka
Scribner
ISBN 9780743262460
Raymond Carver: Collected Stories

Raymond Carver: Collected Stories

By Raymond Carver
Library of America
ISBN 9781598530469

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Recent Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!