Angela's Reviews > What It Used to Be Like: A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver

What It Used to Be Like by Maryann Burk Carver
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Apr 24, 10


Late Fragment
"And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth".
-Raymond Carver
This book, written by the ex-wife of the late, part-time poet, and full-time, short story writer, Raymond Carver, paints a compelling portrait, not only of the artist rising from abject poverty, but also of the woman, no slouch of an artist herself, as this revealing volume displays, who essentially let's him climb up on her back, and carries him arduously , over the long course of years, to safety, where he within a few weeks of attaining that "freedom" in a new marriage, proceeds to die of grief and guilt disguised as cancer, and rightly so, if you ask me.
For he can never repay the gift of her unrequited protection, and nurture, not a scintilla of it. And therefore, cannot relish, or glory in his freedom, or his fame, or the love of others, especially other women, which he has not himself won.
He asked her to write this book, because it needed to be written and he could not write it himself. She does not have to say any of the above, nor that she is the ground of his success, nor the force that kept him from spinning off to madness and wreckage, and instead allowed him to to be stable, to come home, to practice his craft in peace despite the violence of his early life, and the hardship and poverty of their early marriage. The reader simply becomes aware as the story progresses that in her, and her extended family, he found a safety net that carried him. If he felt himself "beloved on the earth" it was through this woman who would not leave, until he wanted her to leave, and knew the very moment to go, like a mother who knows her child better than he knows himself.
A quintessential story of a teenage friendship, that became a love affair, and a quarter-century long, sacrificial marriage, 20th century style.
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