By Kirk Nesset
“This short volume intelligently synthesizes and supplements much of the earlier criticism about this significant writer, who died at the peak of his powers in 1988.”
B. H. Leeds, Choice
“This quirky, sometimes strikingly poetic discussion provides an insightful… accounting of Carver’s oeuvre.”
Bryan D. Dietrich, American Literature
Raymond Carver, known in some circles as the “godfather of minimalism,” has been credited by many as the rejuvenator of the once-dying American short story. (See the link on this page to a 2008 Kenyon Review story that discusses the recent controversy over the editing of Carver’s stories.) Drawing on representative tales from each of Carver’s major volumes of fiction, Nesset’s critical exploration leads us deep into the heart of Carver country, an eerie post-industrial world of low-rent survivors. In the earliest fiction, the politics of sex are tied to politics of fortune and chance; marriage as an institution is capricious and unsettling. In later stories, the gesture of telling stories provides an escape for certain of these characters, metaphorically and otherwise; and in Carver’s last stories, subtle strategies of language offer a similar, if more tentative release. From beginning to end, Carver’s distinctive, highly imitative style is intrinsic to his subject and is crucial in presenting what Carver called the “dark side of Reagan’s America.”
In this comprehensive study of Carver, Nesset discusses the relationship of minimalism and postmodern trends and the rise of new realism. By locating Carver in the gallery of American letters, Nesset shows him to be at once more simple and more complex than we might have believed, skillfully laying the groundwork for Carver studies to come.
Kirk Nesset is author of two books of short stories Paradise Road (University of Pittsburgh Press), and Mr. Agreeable (Mammoth Press), as well as Alphabet of the World: Selected Works of Eugenio Montejo (translations, Bucknell University Press, forthcoming). He was awarded the Drue Heinz literature prize in 2007 and has received a Pushcart Prize and numerous grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. His stories, poems and translations have appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, Agni, Gettysburg Review, Iowa Review, The Sun, Fiction, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and literature at Allegheny College.
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