November 23, 2010

Raymond Carver:
A Writer’s Life

Carol Sklenicka

The Master – You’re a fan, a huge fan. The kind of fan who has read every story, read every poem, read every essay. You’ve bought the memoirs of others who knew him. You’ve devoured the photo books, the interviews. You’ve wished there was more on YouTube of the man himself, the Master, Raymond Carver. And then comes along Carol Sklenicka’s exquisite, exhaustive biography, which reads like a page-turner despite its thorough detail, and you find yourself slowing down, spending more time with each page, with each sentence, with each word, wanting to savor every anecdote, wanting to enjoy every moment, good and bad – and there is plenty of bad. In other words: You want to drink every drop and can never quite get enough. Nothing ironic about being a Carver-holic – just as there is nothing ironic about a 500-page tome to capture the life of a man who the Master himself used to capture in a few, thin pages per short story. In the end, you still don’t want it to end, but, of course, the story does end, far too early. Raymond Carver’s friend (and no short-end-of-the-stick in the genius-writer department himself) Tobias Wolff once said, if you’re writing today, you’re either trying to write like Hemingway or not write like Hemingway. The same can be said for Raymond Carver.


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