Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver

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John Cheever and Raymond Carver at the Iowa House


Cheever remarked that he could always recognize “an alcoholic line” in a writer’s work. I’m not exactly sure what he meant by this but I think I know. When we were teaching in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the fall semester of 1973, he and I did nothing but drink. I mean we met our classes, in a manner of speaking. But the entire time we were there—we were living in this hotel they have on campus, the Iowa House—I don’t think either of us ever took the covers off our typewriters. We made trips to a liquor store twice a week in my car.

[…] He lived on the fourth floor of the hotel and I lived on the second. Our rooms were identical, right down to the same reproduction of the same painting hanging on the wall. But when we drank together, we always drank in his room. He said he was afraid to come down to drink on the second floor. He said there was always a chance of him getting mugged in the hallway!

-Raymond Carver

Simpson, Mona, and Lewis Buzbee. “Raymond Carver, The Art of Fiction No. 76.” The Paris Review, 12 June 2017, www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3059/the-art-of-fiction-no-76-raymond-carver.

Literary Reference

Raymond Carver and Donald Justice at the Iowa House


In Iowa City, Raymond Carver lived in the Iowa House at the Iowa Memorial Union: his room was two floors above John Cheever’s room, and both of them used to spend the days and nights there, talking and drinking. Donald Justice remembered:

I’d see [Carver] around the offices quite a bit. Our paths crossed mostly in socializing, at parties. I remember a poker game in his room on the Iowa House one Sunday evening in which I lost heavily. Ray bluffed me out of a couple of hands.

Halpert, Sam. Raymond Carver: An Oral Biography. University of Iowa Press, 1995


Raymond Carver and Donald Justice at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

Raymond Carver came to Iowa City as a poetry student in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the fall of 1963, but stayed only until the end of that school year. Next, he was appointed lecturer in the Workshop in the fall of 1974. Due to financial troubles at the time, Carver kept his previous position at University of California Santa Barbara and commuted by air between the two places.

In 1978, Carver received a Guggenheim fellowship and came to teach in Iowa City from March through June. Donald Justice, a poet professor at the workshop, and 1980 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, remembers that during that stay Carver and Maryann house-sat for them while Justice and his wife were away for more than a month.

“[Carver] was a student in the poetry workshop I was teaching. In the early seventies […] he came back to teach fiction here. I’d see him around the offices quite a bit. Our paths crossed mostly in socializing, at parties.” – Donald Justice

Halpert, Sam. Raymond Carver: An Oral Biography. Iowa City: U of Iowa, 1995. Print.


Raymond Carver interview at the English-Philosophy Building


In a little known interview taken a few hours before Carver’s reading in the English Lounge at the EPB (English Philosophy Building) on the night of April 15, 1978, the writer admits: “A year ago I thought I’d never write another poem. I don’t know exactly what it is, but since I’ve been in Iowa City I’ve written an entire book.”

Carver, Raymond; Gentry, Marshall Bruce; Stull, William L. Conversations with Raymond Carver. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1990: http://bit.ly/1HsG91J


Stephen King on John Cheever and Raymond Carver

Iowa City
123 S Linn St

Until mid-1977, Raymond Carver was out of control. While teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he and John Cheever became drinking buddies. “He and I did nothing but drink,” Carver said of the fall semester of 1973. “I don’t think either of us ever took the covers off our typewriters.” Because Cheever had no car, Carver provided transportation on their twice-weekly booze runs. They liked to arrive at the liquor store just as the clerk was unlocking for the day. Cheever noted in his journal that Carver was “a very kind man.” He was also an irresponsible boozehound who habitually ran out on the check in restaurants, even though he must have known it was the waitress who had to pay the bill for such dine-and-dash customers. His wife, after all, often waited tables to support him.

– Stephen King

King, Stephen. “Raymond Carver’s Life and Stories.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2009, www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/books/review/King-t.html?_r=0.

Literary Reference

T.C. Boyle & Raymond Carver at the Mill

The Mill Restaurant

Ray Carver had been living in town a few years earlier, in the Cheever days (they drank together at the Mill, and I’ll never know why the local historical society hasn’t affixed little brass markers to the stools they perched themselves on during those long hard hours of draining glasses and lighting cigarettes)…

T.C. Boyle, ‘This Monkey, My Back’

Raymond Carver was a fiction writer and poet, author of several award-winning collections of short stories, including What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Cathedral and Elephant. Born in Oregon on May 25, 1938, he was acclaimed as the greatest influence on the American short story since Hemingway. He attended the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop from 1963 – 1964, and later returned to teach, in the fall semester of 1973, as a visiting lecturer in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with John Cheever.


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