Carol Sklenicka

Two decades after his death in Port Angeles, Raymond Carver (1938-1988) is being reassessed with his unabridged, original draft stories and a new biography. His belated success in the ’70s stamped an entire generation of American writers in his minimalist mode. Fine—write as he wrote, but don’t live as he lived. In Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life (Scribner, $35), Carol Sklenicka relates how Carver was already a mean drunk with a teen bride and two small children by the time he left Yakima to seek his fortune with at typewriter. It was a long time—and many bottles—coming. His second wife, Northwest poet Tess Gallagher, had the good fortune to arrive with the sobriety and good reviews, making him considerably easier to live with. Others can debate how much credit editor Gordon Lish deserves for pruning Carver’s prose into his signature style. Some may prefer the long versions in the Library of America’s new Raymond Caver: Collected Stories (I favor the Lish reductions). But few would’ve preferred to meet the man during his tumultuous first 40 years instead of the calm last ten. BRIAN MILLER

Wed., Dec. 16, 7 p.m., 2009

 
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