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Issue 37 - Carver's L.A. gories....

Whisky Magazine Issue 37
February 2004

 

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Carver's L.A. gories....

Jefferson Chase trawls through another downbeat bar. This time courtesy of Raymond Carver

When director Robert Altman adapted several of Raymond Carver's short stories for the silver screen in 1993, he called his film Short Cuts. A better title would have been Drinking Stories.

Born in Clatskanie, Oregon in 1938, Carver devoted the majority of his life to a prolonged bender, before quitting the sauce and becoming one of America's most highly regarded short-fiction writers, who won both a Guggenheim Fellowship and two awards from the National Endowment for the Arts.

With their sparse style and amoral tone, Carver's stories often read – at least at first – like anecdotes from his drunken decades.

This is certainly the case with Vitamins. In it, the first-person narrator describes one of his favourite, after work drinking holes, as well as its unusual house speciality:

It was a place called the Off-Broadway. It was a spade place in a spade neighbourhood. It was run by a spade named Khaki. People would show up after the other places had stopped serving.

They'd ask for house specials – RC Colas with a shooter of whiskey – or else they'd bring their own stuff under their coats, order RC, and build their own. Musicians showed up to jam, and the drinkers who wanted to keep drinking came to drink and listen to the music. Sometimes people danced. But mainly they sat around and drank and listened.

The first-person narrator works in a hospital. His wife is a door-to-door vitamin saleswoman, who complains that her life is going nowhere. The Off-Broadway is where ...

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