Read Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver Free Online
Book Title: Where I'm Calling From|
The author of the book: Raymond Carver
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Reader ratings: 5.7
Edition: Atlantic Monthly Pr
Date of issue: May 1st 1988
ISBN 13: 9780871132161
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 2.20 MB
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The typical profile of an American adult reader of literature is a college-educated professional making a decent salary in a choice environment such as the publishing industry, law office, consulting firm or college or university. But how about the other America, populated by men and women worlds away from ever reading literary works, men and women living in the raw-boned land of work boots, crap jobs, hard liquor, chain smokes, trailer camps, hollering from foul mouths and breakdowns from beat-up cars?
Well, welcome to Carver country. There are 37 stories in this Raymond Carver collection. As way of providing a taste of what the reader unfamiliar with the author might expect, here is a short write-up on four stories, each story vintage Raymond Carver:
THEY'RE NOT YOUR HUSBAND
Earl is a salesman "between jobs." Earl goes to the diner where his wife Doreen works as a waitress on the night shift. He overhears two men at the counter make less than flattering remarks about his wife's overly large posterior. Then, when Doreen leans over to scoop out ice cream, we read: "The white skirt yanked against her hips and crawled up her legs. What showed was girdle, and it was pink, thighs that were rumpled and gray and a little hairy, and veins that spread in a berserk display. The two men sitting beside Early exchanged looks."
The next morning Earl asks Doreen to go on a diet and lose a few pounds. Doreen agrees and Earl buys a scale and, with paper and pencil in hand, keeps close track when Doreen steps on the scale. Doreen has minimal success initially but then loses nearly 20 pounds over the next few weeks. At this point Earl returns to the dinner but what happens as he sits at the counter does not fit in with his plans of redemption. Ah, to have a wife other men find attractive and desirable!
A fat man sits alone at a restaurant table for his evening meal. He is so fat he would qualify for what we 21st century readers would term "morbidly obese." Unlike everyone else working at the restaurant, the cook, the busboy, the other waitresses, the narrator of the story who waits on his table is touched by the fat man's humanity. And the more trips to his table, the greater her compassion and understanding. We feel a kind of kinship with the narrator as she tells the story and speaks of the fat man's fat fingers, his puffing as he sits at the table, his referring to himself as "we." And when she is in bed that night with her boyfriend, we are given the sense that she is at the beginning of a life transformation as a result of her contact with the fat man.
Bookkeeper Bill and secretary Arlene feel isolated and see themselves as stick-in-the-muds compared to frequent flyer, on-the-go salesman Jim and wife Harriet. Jim and Harriet go away on one of their many trips and, as per usual, leave their apartment key with their across-the-hall neighbors so Bill and Arlene can feed the cat and water the plants. Reasonable request; the courtesy and community of neighbors.
However, this time across-the-hall neighbors Bill and Arlene break routine, their envy and jealousy runneth over. First time in the apartment, Bill raids the medicine chest and pockets Harriet's pills and then moves to the living room and helps himself to a couple of good swigs of Jim's Scotch. Next time in, Bill commits even more extreme invasions of privacy. And then Arlene takes her turn invading privacy, an invasion leading to ,ooh, a naughty discovery. The story ends with an unexpected twist, leaving the reader with no doubts as to the depth of the couple's alienation and sadness.
The narrator waxes floors during the night at the local hospital and lives with out-of-work Patti who, in her quest for self-respect via employment, resorts to selling vitamins door-to-door. After her initial success, Patti is promoted, given a crew of girls to oversee and an office in the local mall. But vitamins takes over Patti's life and she hates it, telling the narrator she even dreams of pitching vitamins to customers. Shella, one of the vitamin salesgirls loves Patti. Shella gets drunk and passes out at Patti's Christmas party. The next morning an injured Shella wants Patti to drive her to the hospital but the narrator won't let Shella wake up Patti. A cursing Shella walks out, never to be seen again.
The story continues and we as readers are given a clear view of a world where the quest for love is never a happy one and people fall back into listening to their favorite sentimental music and hard drinking, lots of hard drinking, with dreams of escape to such places as Portland or Phoenix. In Carver country what people are really trying to escape from is their own lives. The author captures their humanity and their despair in telling detail.
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Read information about the authorCarver was born into a poverty-stricken family at the tail-end of the Depression. He married at 19, started a series of menial jobs and his own career of 'full-time drinking as a serious pursuit', a career that would eventually kill him. Constantly struggling to support his wife and family, Carver enrolled in a writing programme under author John Gardner in 1958. He saw this opportunity as a turning point.
Rejecting the more experimental fiction of the 60s and 70s, he pioneered a precisionist realism reinventing the American short story during the eighties, heading the line of so-called 'dirty realists' or 'K-mart realists'. Set in trailer parks and shopping malls, they are stories of banal lives that turn on a seemingly insignificant detail. Carver writes with meticulous economy, suddenly bringing a life into focus in a similar way to the paintings of Edward Hopper. As well as being a master of the short story, he was an accomplished poet publishing several highly acclaimed volumes.
After the 'line of demarcation' in Carver's life - 2 June 1977, the day he stopped drinking - his stories become increasingly more redemptive and expansive. Alcohol had eventually shattered his health, his work and his family - his first marriage effectively ending in 1978. He finally married his long-term parter Tess Gallagher (they met ten years earlier at a writers' conference in Dallas) in Reno less than two months before he eventually lost his fight with cancer.
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