Too close for comfort

1046 Words5 Pages
Too close for comfort
Yet the similarity between these two stories raises some interesting questions about how we read Carver. That he is adored as few late-century American writers are is not news -- as Bloom points out there's almost a cult of Carver. Readers treasure not only his taut, bleak, deeply moving short stories but the legend of his life, as well: unhappy, alcoholic, stifled by frustrating poverty and saddled with the overwhelming responsibilities of teenage parenthood ("[My wife and I] didn't have any youth" he told Simpson), Carver's singular talent didn't have room to develop until relatively late. His eventual triumph over adversity, a story of late, spectacular blooming against all odds, has given him a rare hold on his readers' affection. Carver chronicled the lives of the lumpen proletariat and the demoralized white working class with a sensitivity and eye for detail unmatched in his contemporaries and, many would argue, his followers. He is commonly thought of as a truly American writer, perhaps stylistically indebted to Sherwood Anderson, Stephen Crane and Ernest Hemingway (he himself suggested the link to Hemingway in his book "Fires"), but in a sense sui generis -- a talented, sensitive soul who rose up out of the deadening laundromats and strip malls of the great, dreary American suburban wastelands and wrote beautiful, sad stories in clipped, stripped prose. The minimalism and domestic realism of his short stories made his work read very differently from the cerebral literary styling of his contemporaries, the university-ensnared postmodernists. But perhaps Carver's work wasn't as unfettered or as American (in his literary influences, at least) as all that. It seems that he read (and taught) the European modernists very carefully. Bloom says that, "Carver was a very literary writer and his work is full of echoes of other writers, some of them unintentional. He's a derivative writer -- vastly overrated." Or, as Tobias Wolff wrote, admiringly, in the introduction to "The Best American Short Stories of 1994:" The picture of Gabriel Conroy [in James Joyce's' "The Dead"] watching his wife Gretta on the staircase above him as she listens to a tragic ballad ... has become for me ... the very emblem of that final distance which a lifetime of domestic partnership can never overcome. I wonder if there isn't an echo of this image in Raymond Carver's "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" when Ralph, returning from a walk on his honeymoon, sees his bride, Marian, "leaning motionless on her arms over the ironwork balustrade of their rented casita .
Open Document