From Raymond Carver: Collected Stories
In a recent interview, William Stull and Maureen Carroll, the editors of The Library of America edition of Raymond Carver’s Collected Stories, summarized the fiction that remained unavailable to readers when Carver died:
Four stories uncollected and five unpublished at the writer’s death . . . That’s not a bursting cupboard, compared to the dozens of uncollected stories by John Cheever, say, or the shelf of posthumous books by Charles Bukowski. In life and literature, Raymond Carver didn’t hold much back. “I’ve always squandered,” he liked to say.In her introduction to Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Prose, Carver’s widow, Tess Gallagher, recalls what led to the discovery of three of the five unpublished stories:
Early in 1998, as the tenth anniversary of Ray’s death approached, Jay Woodruff phoned to say he wanted to do something to honor Ray in Esquire. “There are these folders in the desk,” I said. “There may be nothing whole or worthwhile,” I told him. “But I could look sometime.” I suspect Jay heard the hesitation. At any rate he said, “Tess, when you get ready to look at those things I’ll be happy to come out and help you.”Woodruff and Gallagher met in March 1999 at Tess’s home in Port Angeles, and Craig Offman spoke to Woodruff for Salon soon thereafter:
After rummaging through a drawer of notes, fragments and false starts, the two pretty much gave up on the idea of a “eureka!” file. “I felt discouraged,” he [Woodruff] says. "Many of the stories Tess and I found began well but fell off the cliff. But then, toward the end of the day, I heard her say, ‘Oh!’”By coincidence, just a few months later, Stull and Carroll found the other two stories in Carver’s papers at the Ohio State University Library.
One of the three stories found in Port Angeles, “Kindling,” “hark[s] back movingly to that time in 1979,” writes Gallagher, “when Ray and I began our lives together in El Paso and he made his own fresh start at writing after a ten-year bout with alcoholism.” Requiring virtually no editing beyond obvious errors (like the regularization of names and spelling), the story was published in Esquire almost immediately after its discovery—in the July 1999 issue—and it became the sixth of Carver’s stories to win an O. Henry Award.
It was the middle of August and Myers was between lives. The only thing different about this time from the other times was that this time he was sober. He’d just spent twenty-eight days at a drying-out facility. But during this period his wife took it into her head to go down the road with another drunk, a friend of theirs. The man had recently come into some money and had been talking about buying into a bar and restaurant in the eastern part of the state.
Myers called his wife, but she hung up on him. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!