I was one of those weirdos in high school. Okay, those who know me know might say “In high school? C’mon man!” But, all that aside, I loved reading, and I loved the assigned reading that may of my peers found boring. I loved characters studies where not much happened. And, one of my favorite writers who exemplified this credo, was Raymond Carver, who was born here in the Oregon and died in nearby Port Angeles, Washington.
Raymond Clevie Carver Jr. was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, (about sixty miles north west of Portland) a small logging town on the Oregon Coast, on May 25th, 1938. He is widely regarded as the reason the short story in America was revived. With classic stories like “Feathers”, “Cathedral” and “Will you please be quiet, please?”, it’s no mystery as to why. Carver was an alcoholic, though he stopped drinking in 1977 with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and remained sober until he died from lung cancer eleven years later on August 2nd 1988.
He is one of the most decorated American writers ever—and almost certainly in Oregon. Raymond Carver was selected for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1984 for his third major-press collection, Cathedral. This collection of short stories is widely considered to be his finest work. Included in this collection are the award-winning stories “A Small, Good Thing”, “Where I’m Calling From”, and of course, “Cathedral”. A Small, Good thing was included in the compilation, The Best American Short Stories of the Century. Carver won five O. Henry Awards with “Are These Actual Miles” (originally titled “What Is It?”) (1972), “Put Yourself in My Shoes” (1974), “Are You A Doctor?” (1975), “A Small, Good Thing” (1983), and “Errand” (1988).
Carver professed that “Cathedral”was a turning point in his career for its shift toward a more positive outlook on life and an assuredly poetic style. His style was simple and elegant and imminently relatable.
Carver’s work often showed the plight of the working middle class and his language was simple and unassuming. It was for every man, which perhaps why it endures today. Simple language and truth never goes out of style. To the untrained or impatient reader, nothing really happens in his stories. But, nothing could be further from the truth. His stories have heart and soul and veracity. They exemplify the hard working Oregon spirit and look forward to the future. Carver’s work is uniquely Oregonian and it’s a pleasure to have his legacy here in our great home state.
A memorial park and statue in Carver’s birth town of Clatskanie, Oregon stand sat the corner of Lillich and Nehalem Streets, across from the library, where you can find many of his fine books. A block away from this memorial is the structure where Carver was born. Raymond Carver is a true Oregon treasure and if you haven’t visited his memorial park and viewed his statue, make that your next trek within the great state of Oregon.