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Wednesday, August 8th, 2001


Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose

by Raymond Carver

A review by Adrienne Miller

GIST: A dazzling collection of short stories (and occasional prose) from a twentieth-century master of the form.

UPSHOT: It's impossible to overestimate the importance of Raymond Carver on post-war American fiction. The clarity of his insight, the accuracy of his prose — a precision that no one since, except maybe DeLillo (although they couldn't possibly be more different kinds of writers), has come even close to — his interest in the inner lives of his beaten characters — these qualities were, in the eighties, completely revolutionary. Carver inspired legions of tiny followers (most of whom lacked even a fraction of his humanity), and he made his contemporaries seem mucky, muddy-mouthed, full of shit. Call If You Need Me contains ten stories that haven't been published in a book yet, and of these, three ran in Esquire. "Kindling" (an Esquire story) is the most fully realized, and is so lovely as to be wrenching. This book will be accused of literary grave robbing — and much of the nonfiction here does feel like padding — but these stories needed to be published. As was said of Flannery O'Connor, "what we lost when [he] died was bitter."

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