Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I've always been one to visit graves, finding the experience lovely in ways that I do not fully understand. I respect why other people sometimes find this mystifying and often hear the whole, the person isn't really there spiel, with which I agree in theory. In my twenties, I saw lots of famous graves -- Breece Pancake, Frederick Exley, Charles Bukowski, and of course, the great Raymond Carver. Carver's grave, outside of Yakima (his hometown where I also tracked down the church that he and MaryAnn, his first wife, got married in -- St. Mark's for anyone who wants to know) on the edge of the ocean, was breathtaking. I took a ton of pictures for myself and others -- my friend Mark wanted one to replace a picture of his ex-wife doing dishes with a scowl on her face that he had posted on his office cubicle for reasons unknown to anyone but himself, a very Carver gesture if there was one. People had left notes for Ray, requests for his help with writing and ones of praise. My favorite was from Carver's grandchild who said he'd wished he'd gotten to meet him.
Now I visit graves of people I knew in life, most frequently my friend Hank's, which is out in the middle of nowhere under a huge tree, right off of Joy Road. It's peaceful when people aren't engaging in target practice during hunting season and one fears a stray bullet. Strangely enough, neither of my parents were buried. Cremation appealed to the practical side of my mother and my father's body had to be identified by his teeth so there wasn't anything to bury really. Both of them exist in urns in their old bedroom which gives some people the creeps (my mother's Budhist friends think it's bad luck and brings misfortune on the family), but I don't mind. I suspect they like being in the room where so much of their lives played out, right above their socks and underwear and the top dresser drawers, where everything that you don't use, but value remains. When Hank and I drove by the local graveyard in the middle of Denton, Hank would yell, Hi Dead People! in a jolly voice, and for that minute, we were glad that we weren't them, we were us and being happy that you are you-- well, how often does that happen?
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The whole world is a graveyard." Six Feet Under
"One can get used to anything/ Become a stranger to nothing/Understand that betrayal is just another word for hunger." Raymond Carver
Find A Grave
1 shot of midori liquor
glass of champagne
2 cherries and a tiny bit of cherry juice
Benedictions and Maledictions
In answer to lovely Robin's Carver question and the lively debate that followed!
Raymond Carver was all the buzz when I was in graduate school. I read his stories and fell in love. Usually, I resist what others tout, but in this case, everyone was right! Ray (I feel as if I know him) was brilliant. Later, I discovered his poetry which I think is as every bit as good as the fiction. The answer to why I like him has to do with a certain vision. One senses Ray was a funny kind man, a man who loved to gossip about himself and others, one who loved life, but also had respect for the fact that life could wreak a whole lot of havoc on a person. He writes frankly about money or lack of, the allure and misery of drinking, the pain of the divided heart and soul. My favorite stories are "Menudo," "Are These Actual Miles?" and "Intimacy." Ray's poems are by and large heartbreaking. (Favorites from the collected works -- "Limits," "Wenas Ridge," "Luck," "Nyquil" and on and on)
P.S. As for his editor, Gordon Lish, Lish certainly had a large part in forming his style, but toward the end of Carver's life, he resisted Lish's edits and they had the classic father/son falling out about the work. I like the later Carver just as much as the early writing which is not everyone's feeling, I know. Lish has edited many writers since Carver, most notably Amy Hempel.