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Where I'm Calling From: Selected Stories

Where I'm Calling From: Selected Stories

by Raymond Carver

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By the time of his early death in 1988, Raymond Carver had established himself as one of the great practitioners of the American short story, a writer who had not only found his own voice but imprinted it in the imaginations of thousands of readers. Where I’m Calling From, his last collection, encompasses classic stories from Cathedral


By the time of his early death in 1988, Raymond Carver had established himself as one of the great practitioners of the American short story, a writer who had not only found his own voice but imprinted it in the imaginations of thousands of readers. Where I’m Calling From, his last collection, encompasses classic stories from CathedralWhat We Talk About When We Talk About Love, and earlier Carver volumes, along with seven new works previously unpublished in book form. Together, these 37 stories give us a superb overview of Carver’s life work and show us why he was so widely imitated but never equaled.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The summation of a triumphant career from "one of the great short story writers of our time--of any time." (The Philadelphia Inquirer)"[Raymond Carver is] one of the true contemporary masters." —The New York Review of Books"[Carver's stories] can...be counted among the masterpieces of American fiction." —Irving Howe, The New York Times Book Review"[These stories] overflow with the danger, excitement, mystery and possibility of life.... Carver is a writer of astonishing compassion and honesty, his eye set on describing and revealing the world as he sees it. His eye is so clear, it almost breaks your heart." —The Washington Post Book World
A writer was coming to campus. He was supposedly an important writer, but he was nobody I knew. None of his books had become movies. He was a professor at another university, and I figured he was just a friend of my professor. This was when I was a junior in college, taking my first fiction workshop. This writer was giving a reading, and our professor canceled class that week and required us to go to the reading instead. I'd been to readings. They were painless. No one sipped tea with their pinkies up. No one chanted or sang, like at coffeehouse open-mike nights. Root canal, coffeehouse open-mike night. Root canal, open-mike night. You can go back and forth on that one for a long time, but I say they're about tied.

Our professor had also set up an invitation-only, two-day workshop with the writer. Everyone in our class was invited, but it was optional. The writer's newest book was on our syllabus, but I hadn't read it yet. I was not being tested on it. I was supposed to write about it in a journal, but I had until the end of the semester for that.

And so I did what was required. The minimum. I went to the reading. It was at night in a lecture hall. I came there straight from a happy-hour situation. The writer turned out to be a really good reader, I knew that much. He was a big, bearish, clean-shaven man, with an oddly gentle-sounding voice. He looked like a regular guy, which made me think that he could not be much of a writer, seeing as how he did not have a beard and was not properly dead. But that was crazy. I wanted to be a great writer, too. If I ever did it, I would have to write all my books while still living. How else?

The story the writer read was about some men who went fishing and saw a naked dead girl in the river. They didn't want to hike back out of the woods and report it, so they kept fishing for a few days and then reported it upon their return. All this had already happened when the story starts. When the story starts, the incident is in all the newspapers. The story is told from the perspective of the wife of one of the men. She can't believe what happened. She can't believe what her husband was capable of. Really, it's just unbelievable.

It was an awfully good story, I thought, as things like that go. But I was kind of out of it. Afterward, I did not get my copy of the writer's book signed. Afterward, there was a party at my professor's house, which I caught wind of and could have gone to. But I didn't.

The writer was Raymond Carver.


This all happened right after I thought I'd become serious about being a writer, but it just goes to show you how serious I wasn't.

Later in the semester, during finals week, I read Carver's book What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I read that story he had read, "So Much Water So Close to Home," and I was so stunned sweat popped out on my temples. The whole book! Great.

Stories about the sort of well-meaning blue-collar people I had come from, who hunt and fish and drink too much and can get into bad marriages and also into money problems. I didn't really know you could write stories like this. Also there was this language of Carver's. One of my professors had told us that there was nothing so complicated as Hemingway's simple sentences. I didn't understand that. Now, reading Carver, I did. He could make a character say a thing at the end of a story like, "It's really something," and you just want to die, it's so beautiful. You can't say why these people who can't find the words for what they want to say end up saying so much.

No book came along during those years when I was struggling to grow up and become a writer that helped me do more of both -- to grow up and to become a writer. Like Holden Caulfield, I got done with that book and I wished that the author who wrote it was a terrific friend of mine and I could call him up on the phone whenever I felt like it. Only I had already had the chance, kind of, to talk to Raymond Carver and even to get him to read one of my clumsy, well-meaning attempts to be a writer. There was no getting around it. I blew it. I blew it royally.

I look back on this and I want to knock myself cold. What could I have been thinking?

A few years after that came another great book of stories, Cathedral, my favorite of all Carver's collections.

By that time I was in graduate school, and I was teaching Raymond Carver. No writer I'd read had ever taught me more. I did not write like him. It scared me. (It scares me now too. There are few good American writers under the age of 40 who do not owe a lot to Raymond Carver. But it turns out that like Hemingway, it looks like he would be easy to imitate, but he's not. So okay. I'm trying, is all. This essay is just me trying.)

I tried not to think about how I could have met him and didn't. My writing professors told me that writing is a small world and that eventually if you keep writing you will meet everyone else who is writing. Mostly this is true.

And so: Seven years after I could have but did not meet Raymond Carver, through some twisted miracle I wrote a book and it got accepted for publication. Which was the best part, but only barely, because it also turned out that my new editor was also the editor for Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories by none other than Raymond Carver. I had the same editor as Raymond Carver!

Before I could work up the nerve to ask if my editor would somehow introduce us, Carver died.

Lung cancer. Age 50. When he died people knew he was great, but as with Flannery O'Connor, he died young and so it took a little while for people to realize how great. Other writers knew it. I knew it. But too late. It's hard for me not to hate the kid I was.

The last thing his wife, the poet Tess Gallagher, said to Raymond Carver was this: "You're out there now, Ray," she said. "In literature."

—Mark Winegardner

New York Times Books of the Century
What happens most powerfully and often ...is the imagining by one character of another character's life....We finally see in it the point made by Henry James, that beauty is the form of address made by the world to the human soul.
Chicago Tribune
The stories streamline and order and heighten experience in a way that makes everyday life look both chaotic and relatively benign, and so, in its way, Carver's fiction reassures. Set next to standard-issue American heroes, these characters may be jerks, losers, flops, sad-sacks, bums and chumps, but within each is a spark of caring. This human quality impels us into the center of every Carver story.
NY Times Book Review
Among the masterpieces of American fiction.
Baltimore Sun
Where I'm Calling From is the closest thing to definitive Carver.
Cleveland Plain-Dealer
Powerful, evocative....A good representaion of a modern master. If you're going to own one book by Carver, this should be it.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The cool streamlined style of this modern master of the short story has spawned dozens of younger writers who seek to follow in Carver's footsteps. But where the Brat Pack frequently produces flat, unresonating fiction, Carver has the ability to render graceful prose from dreary, commonplace, scraping-the-bottom human misery. This collection consists of 30 stories selected from four previous volumes, and seven new tales. Appearing in order of original publication, they reflect Carver's developmentfrom 1963 to the present. We meet many of his characters just as something dear to them is slipping away. Jobs, cars, the affection of a spouse or child, the routine of lifeall can be lost. Even in the more upbeat stories, a narrator recalls a happy occasion that, in retrospect, marked a change for the worse, or a high point in a life since gone sour. In Carver's world, ashtrays overflow, wives are usually ex-, and drinkers are drunks. Seedy and dishonest characters are glimpsed in the process of once again doing the wrong thing. One of the new stories, ``The Errand,'' which is in part an account of Chekhov's death, is offered as a tip of the hat to the great short story writer. Even here, with more affecting and finished prose than ever before, Carver's rendering gives us all the intimacy of a medical chart. Aptly named, he is a carver of flesh from the bone.
Library Journal
Carver is arguably the most important American short story writer since Ernest Hemingway, and like Hemingway he is the master of a much-imitated style: spare and flat, yet powerfully implying much more than it says. His stories deal with people whose lives are coming apart and with the illusions they cling to for self-respect; many have the emotional impact of overheard confessions. This aptly titled collection contains eight new stories written since the publication of the much praised Cathedral, plus 30 stories selected by Carver from his other books. Together they chart Carver's literary development as he takes us to frontiers of desperation where dreams turn to dread. -- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Library, Randolph, Massachusetts
— Geoff Rotunno, Tri-Mix Magazine, Goleta, California
— Geoff Rotunno, Tri-Mix Magazine, Goleta, California
Irving Howe
[Carver's stories] can…be counted among the masterpieces of American fiction.
The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
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Product dimensions:
5.15(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.88(d)

Meet the Author

Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, in 1938. His first collection of stories, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please (a National Book Award nominee in 1977), was followed by What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Cathedral (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1984), and Where I'm Calling From in 1988, when he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died August 2, 1988, shortly after completing the poems of A New Path to the Waterfall.

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