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Guide to the Raymond Carver Correspondence, 1977-1988
MS 131  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of the Collection.
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Raymond Carver Correspondence,
    Date (inclusive): 1977-1988
    Collection number: MS 131
    Creator: Carver, Raymond
    Extent: 1 document box

    3 folders - 38 items
    Repository: University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library. Special Collections and Archives
    Santa Cruz, California 95064
    Abstract: Correspondence between Raymond Carver and David Swanger, 1977-1988. Also included is one letter from Tess Gallagher (Mr. Carver's wife) to David Swanger.
    Physical location: Stored in Special Collections: Advance notice is required for access.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce the material, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Raymond Carver Correspondence. MS 131. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of David Swanger in 2002 & January 2003.


    Raymond Clevie Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon on May 25, 1938. In 1941 his family moved to Yakima, where Carver grew up, graduating from Yakima High School in 1956. On June 7, 1957, he married 16 year old Maryann Burk, who had just graduated from high school. In December of 1957 their first child, daughter Christine LaRae, was born. A son, Vance Lindsay, was born in October of the following year.
    For the next dozen years one or both of the young parents were enrolled in various colleges and universities while holding a continuous succession of menial jobs. Carver wrote his first story, "Furious Seasons," while a student at Chico State College in California. After two years there, the family moved to Eureka, where he attended Humboldt State College, eventually becoming editor of the campus literary magazine Toyon. In the spring of 1962 Western Humanities Review accepted "Pastoral" -- Carver's first story published. The very same day, he received word that Target had accepted his poem "The Brass Ring" for publishing.
    After graduating from Humboldt in February 1963, Carver moved to Berkeley, but by autumn the family had moved to Iowa City so he could attend the two-year master's program of the Writers' Workshop. They stayed only one year, however, before moving back to Sacramento, California, where Carver's parents were living. Financial difficulties continued, but he continued to write, and began to garner some success in getting work published. The next several years found them moving often, ending up in the Bay Area by the late 1960's. In 1970 "Neighbors" became the first of Carver's stories to be accepted by a major magazine, Esquire.
    In 1971 he began teaching, despite finding it "a terrifying prospect." His first lecturer position was at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The following year was at UC Berkeley. During this time his drinking became more and more of a problem. In the 1973-74 academic year, he tried to teach at both the Iowa Writers' Workshop and at UCSC, without either school being aware he was teaching at the other. Meanwhile, his first collection of short stories, Put Yourself In My Shoes, appeared. Nonetheless, by the following year, when he was to teach at UC Santa Barbara, his alcoholism made the situation untenable and he was forced to resign. He continued a downward spiral, hospitalized for acute alcoholism on four separate occasions.
    June 2, 1977, was called by Carver "the line of demarcation" between his "two lives": it was then he had his last alcoholic drink. It was too late to save his family life (he and Maryann eventually divorced but were already separated, and his children were estranged from him), but he soon recovered his ability to teach and desire to write. By the 1978-79 academic year, he held a writer-in-residence position at the University of Texas, El Paso. There he began a relationship with the poet Tess Gallagher, whom he had met the previous year at a conference in Dallas. They moved in together January 1, 1979, and they stayed together until his death in 1988. Jobs took them to Tuscon, Arizona, and then to Syracuse, New York, where Carver had his first permanent teaching post. Throughout the 1980's he continued to write stories and poems, enjoying ever-increasing success. Then in the fall of 1987 Carver was diagnosed with lung cancer, which by the next spring had spread to his brain. In June of 1988 he and Tess were married in Reno, Nevada. They returned to their home in Port Angeles, Washington, making only a brief trip to Alaska before Raymond Carver died on August 2, 1988.
    Raymond Carver was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1979 and twice awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Among the awards Mr. Carver received were the prestigious Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award, which beginning in 1983 gave him $35,000 tax free annually, solely on the condition that he give up all other employment besides writing. He received Poetry magazine's Levinson Prize in 1985, and a Brandeis Citation for fiction in 1988. Also that year he was elected to the American Academy and Institue of Arts and Letters, was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Hartford, and received a Brandeis Citation for fiction. His work has since been translated into more than twenty languages.

    Scope and Content of the Collection.

    The collection includes 28 letters from Raymond Carver to David Swanger, 2 letters about Carver, and 8 photocopies of letters held by Ohio State University from Swanger to Carver (restrictions may apply). Mr. Swanger, currently Professor of Education and Creative Writing at Crown College, was already teaching at UCSC when Mr. Carver was hired as a lecturer in 1970. This correspondence is from the years after Mr. Carver had left UCSC. The last letter chronologically is from his widow Tess Gallagher to Mr. Swanger.


    This letters are in chronological order within each folder.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Carver, Raymond--Correspondence
    Swanger, David--Correspondence
    Authors, American--20th century--Correspondence
    Swanger, David
    Gallagher, Tess