Raymond Carver - Biography
Raymond Carver (1938-1988)
The short stories of Raymond Carver feature ongoing themes of loss and disillusionment, set against a backdrop of
drinking. This should come as no surprise, since Carver's own life is profoundly reflected in his fiction, and he
himself struggled with alcoholism. Carver lived on the American West Coast during the middle of the twentieth
century, during an era when drinking was accepted as readily as the pursuit of the American dream. But this is not
to say that Carver didn't see the dark side of alcoholism: he did. He simply seemed to feel that life was too hard
to endure without it. Alcohol softens the edges as it buoys the spirit, and if it dulls one's grasp of reality at
the same time, well, that's a small price to pay.
Or is it? Many of Carver's characters struggle to stay afloat financially, struggle to keep their marriages
together, and struggle to avoid thinking too deeply about the meaning of life. In Carver's world, people seek to
anesthetize themselves from the pain of life by dodging its real questions. It is impossible, for example, to
determine whether someone loves you, or what has gone wrong in a relationship, or what really matters in life, when
all the parties are drunk. Yet the reader, being sober and hopefully more detached, can see exactly what is going
wrong in the situations Carver describes. Even more tellingly, the effects of alcohol wear off when the liquor is
gone -- and in the absence of more liquor, reality has an annoying tendency to sneak up and reveal itself. Alcohol
dulls the pain of self-knowledge, but it can't totally take it away. Sooner or later the characters have to
confront their own demons, without a buffer in the way.
Let's look at the function of alcohol in the title story of Carver's collection What We Talk About When We Talk
About Love, as well as in another story from that collection, "Gazebo." Here, we will find that drinking
profoundly affects the way the protagonists in each story deal with love and the loss of it, as well as their
perception of reality and their capacity for faith and hope.
Read Storybites' analysis of...
What We Talk About When We Talk About
Both these story can be found in the collection "What We Talk About When We Talk About
It is available in paperback from Amazon here:
It is also available in paperback from Barnes and Noble here: