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Carver, Raymond

stories chekhov death story

(US 1938–88)

Carver was a short story writer and poet. The son of a lumber-mill worker and a waitress, he worked as a janitor, sawmill hand, delivery man, retail clerk, and editor before becoming a full-time writer and occasional teacher of writing. In 1956 Carver married Maryann Burk, with whom he had two children. Just before his death in 1988 he married the poet Tess Gallagher. Carver suffered from alcoholism and came close to drinking himself to death several times. His drinking stopped in 1977—the year he met Gallagher. Carver's stories concern small-town characters struggling with the ordinary enormity of life, reaching moments of revelation which, typically, they note before carrying on as before, understanding that nothing has really changed. His narrative voice is informed by Hemingway's though his greatest influence was Anton Chekhov. His second collection Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (1976) included the story ‘Signals’, a darkly comic account of a couple's argument over dinner in a posh restaurant. The dark side of marriage—the disease of uncomfortable domesticity—was a fruitful subject for Carver.

The stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981) represent his sparest, most minimal work but in his last decade his writing became increasingly expansive and affirmative. Elephant (1988) contains his seven final stories, including ‘Errand’—a moving account of Chekhov's last days and the human business surrounding his death. Themes and characters from several of Carver's stories were woven together in Robert Altman's film Shortcuts (1993).

Anton Chekhov, Lorrie Moore, John Cheever. See SHORT STORIES, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  LG

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