New Books Do Carver Justice

Biography, story collection provide 'necessary corrective'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2009 10:16 AM CST
Raymond Carver   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – Two new books on Raymond Carver—a biography and a collection of stories—bring a "welcome and necessary corrective" to what we know of the short story master, writes Stephen King. Carol Sklenicka's A Writer's Life cuts Carver too much slack for his personal life—he was a "sometimes dangerous" drunk who treated his first wife shabbily, after all—but it's "invaluable" as "a chronicle of Carver’s growth as a writer," King writes in the New York Times Book Review.

In particular, it lays out in "meticulous and heart-breaking" detail the heavy-handedness of Carver's editor, Gordon Lish. King, comparing Lish's versions with Carver's in Collected Stories, savages Lish for imposing his own style on the author's work and stripping it of "heart." The "so-called minimalism with which Carver is credited was actually Lish’s deal." King used to think his big break came when he got his advance for Carrie. "Now I realize it may have been not winding up with Gordon Lish as my editor."