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Raymond Clevie Carver, Jr. (May 25, 1938 – August 2, 1988) was an American short story writer and poet. Carver is considered a major writer of the late 20th century and also a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s.
Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, a mill town on the Columbia River, and grew up in Yakima, Washington. His father, a sawmill worker, was an alcoholic. Carver's mother worked on and off as a waitress and a retail clerk. His one brother, James Franklin Carver, was born in 1943.
Carver was educated at local schools in Yakima, Washington. In his spare time he read mostly novels by Mickey Spillane or publications such as Sports Afield and Outdoor Life and hunted and fished with friends and family. After graduating from Davis High School in 1956, Carver worked with his father at a sawmill in California. In June of 1957, aged 19, he married 16-year-old Maryann Burk. She had just graduated from a private Episcopal school for girls. His daughter, Christine La Rae, was born in December of 1957. When their second child, a boy named Vance Lindsay, was born the next year, Carver was 20. Carver supported his family by working as a janitor, sawmill laborer, delivery man, and library assistant. During their marriage, Maryann worked as a waitress, salesperson, administrative assistant, and teacher.
Carver became interested in writing in California, where he had moved with his family because his wife's mother had a home in Paradise. Carver attended a creative-writing course, taught by the novelist John Gardner, who had a major influence on Carver's life and career. Carver continued his studies first at Chico State University and then at Humboldt State College in Arcata, California, where he was first published and studied with Richard Cortez Day and received his B.A. in 1963. He attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, at the University of Iowa, for one year. Maryann graduated from San Jose State College in 1970 and taught English at Los Altos High School until 1977.
In the mid-60s Carver and his family lived in Sacramento, where he worked as a night custodian at Mercy Hospital. He sat in on classes at what was then Sacramento State College including workshops with poet Dennis Schmitz. Carver's first book of poems, Near Klamath, was published in 1968 by the English Club of Sacramento State College.
With his appearance in the respected "Foley collection," the impending publication of Near Klamath, and the death of his father, 1967 was a landmark year. That was also the year that he moved his family to Palo Alto, California, so that he could take a job as a textbook editor for Science Research Associates. He worked there until he was fired in 1970 for his inapproptiate writing style, too many active verbs. In the 1970s and 1980s as his writing career began to take off, Carver taught for several years at universities throughout the United States.
During the years of working in different jobs, rearing children, and trying to write, Carver started to drink heavily and stated that alcohol became such a problem in his life that he more or less gave up and took to full-time drinking. In the fall semester of 1973, Carver was a teacher in the Iowa Writers' Workshop with John Cheever, but Carver stated that they did less teaching than drinking and almost no writing. The next year, after leaving Iowa City, Cheever went to a treatment center to attempt to overcome his alcoholism, but Carver continued drinking for three years. After being hospitalized three times because of his drinking (between June of 1976 and February or March of 1977), Carver began his 'second life' and stopped drinking on June 2, 1977, with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.
In 1982, Carver and first wife, Maryann, were divorced. From 1979 Carver had lived with the poet Tess Gallagher whom he had met at a writers' conference in El Paso, Texas in 1978. They married in 1988 in Reno, Nevada. Six weeks later, on August 2, 1988, Carver died in Port Angeles, Washington, from lung cancer at the age of 50. In the same year, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is buried at Ocean View Cemetery in Port Angeles, Washington. As his will directed, Tess Gallagher assumed the management of his literary estate.
In 2001 the novelist Chuck Kinder published Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale, a roman à clef about his friendship with Carver in the 1970s. In 2006 Maryann Burk Carver wrote a memoir of her years with Carver: What It Used To Be Like; A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver.