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Carver, Maryann Burk 1941(?)- (Maryann Carver)

Carver, Maryann Burk 1941(?)- (Maryann Carver)

PERSONAL:

Born c. 1941.

CAREER:

Writer.

WRITINGS:

(Edited by Sam Halpert) When We Talk about Raymond Carver: Conversations With Maryann Carver, G. Smith (Layton, UT), 1991.

What It Used to Be Like: A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

The widow of writer Raymond Carver, Maryann Burk Carver wrote a 2006 reminiscence of her turbulent life with the innovative poet and short-story writer. What It Used to Be Like: A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver is an "exacting memoir [that] also presents an unsparing chronicle of entrenched sexism, as well as the boundless joys and demands of marriage and parenthood," according to Donna Seaman in her Booklist review of the book. Married to Carver while still in high school, Maryann soon had two children, and a husband driven by his need to write. Other demons pursued him as well; his troubles with alcohol and women have been well documented, and somehow, throughout it all, Maryann stayed with him, always hoping for a fresh start. Money was always scarce until belated fame came Carver's way, and the family lived a peripatetic life, moving from city to city, college to college. Physical abuse was also part of the marriage, and finally, after twenty-seven years of marriage, the couple divorced in 1982, and Carver went on to marry the poet Tess Gallagher before dying at the age of fifty in 1988. Meanwhile, Maryann had long before given up on her youthful plans for law school.

Reviewers largely praised the frankness with which Maryann Carver portrayed her years with her husband. Writing in Library Journal, Valeda Dent noted that the author "artfully documents their 27-year marriage with clarity and insight." Similarly, a critic for Kirkus Reviews termed the memoir "a bittersweet account of the author's hardscrabble life with her husband." A Publishers Weekly reviewer, however, was less impressed with What It Used to Be Like, noting that "while [Carver's] story offers some biographical insights … it's essentially a cliche-filled tale of the artist's suffering wife." Jonathan Yardley, writing in the Washington Post Book World, also commented on the author's "perky, gee-whiz tone to her prose that is ill-suited to what is a cautionary tale if not a downright sad one." Yet Yardley also found the memoir "interest- ing and instructive and in some ways quite moving." Higher praise came from Seattle Post-Intelligencer critic Scott Driscoll, who called the book "a heartbreaking, but bravely told, love story."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Carver, Maryann Burk, What It Used to Be Like: A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of What It Used to Be Like, p. 25.

Boston Globe, August 6, 2006, Barbara Fisher, review of What It Used to Be Like.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of What It Used to Be Like, p. 503.

Library Journal, August 1, 2006, Valeda Dent, review of What It Used to Be Like, p. 87.

New York Times Book Review, September 24, 2006, Joyce Johnson, review of What It Used to Be Like.

Publishers Weekly, May 15, 2006, review of What It Used to Be Like, p. 64.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 21, 2006, Scott Driscoll, review of What It Used to Be Like.

Washington Post Book World, July 16, 2006, Jonathan Yardley, review of What It Used to Be Like, p. 2.

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