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A New Path to the Waterfall (original 1989; edition 1994)
by Raymond Carver (Author)
A New Path To The Waterfall by Raymond Carver (Author) (1989)
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#880 in our old book database. Not rated.
this probably got an extra star because it was carver's last book, and you can feel his urgency, his intensity, his candle burning bright before the dawn. that said, after reading the introduction, which i read last, i see what they were trying to do with all the quotes from chekhov and others, but while reading it just felt like annoying filler.
also, the poems in here are uneven in terms of quality, but it is worth it for the ones at the top of the scale.
I should read this book at least once every year; some years, more than once. It's slim enough to do so, and Carver's ear for conversational American English means even the longer poems scan quite fast. I went through about half the book on two 15-minute train rides.
But that's just it: it reads fast, and it's short, but there's a lot packed in there. It would ruin the experience for me to analyse it too closely, delve into the layers. But simply to read it once means I'll miss a lot. Some of the layers are thematic (linking historical readings of Alexander the Great or the siege at Thermopylae to everyday personal interactions), some are aesthetic (putting a poem about self-analysis and psychodynamics in a section devoted to fishing, or the mutual commentary of poems suggested by placing them near one another in the book). Multiple readings would help surface these layers without ruining the great conversational style, the easy flow.
And what's with the recurrent excerpts from Chekhov and Milosz? (I suspect Tess Gallagher gets to that in the introduction, but I'll read that after finishing the book.) They're brilliant, and are one display of the wide and historically deep reach of Carver's thinking.
I was first introduced to Carver when watching Altman's The Player, apparently loosely based on Carver's short stories. It took years before I realised that, though I'd become interested in Altman's work since. I've read one selection of Carver's short stories, and they're also deeply affecting. These poems distill a similar take on life, but in even pithier form.
This is the narrative of the end of Carver's career and life. The last sections of poems tell the story of his cancer and his last days. They do so without asking for any pity and without melodrama. The writing is clear and strong.
Perhaps the best review of this piece is in the poem "Ray" by Hayden Carruth which appears in Carruth's collected shorter poems. He nails it and reading Carruth's poem after reading Carver's book led me right back into Carver's book again. It's just tremendous writing to which I return again and again.
Short-story writer and poet Carver, who died of cancer in 1988, wrote these poems during his last few months. Many of them are luminous flashes, poised and tender meditations, while others read like cathartic, unresolved statements by a man struggling to come to terms with his life in the little remaining time allotted to him. The verses range from story-poems to bone-bare nature lyrics to a sprawling allegory about "the two brothers, Sleep and Death." Carver tosses off word-portraits of a drunken Alexander the Great, Antonin Artaud, an encyclopedia salesman. A strain of bitterness runs through the entries dealing with his first marriage, while the touching love poems to his second wife, Tess Gallagher (who wrote the book's moving, highly personal introduction) carry a sense of finality that augments their meaning. Publishers Weekly
Raymond Carver, author of Where I'm Calling From, is widely considered one of the great short story writers of our time. A New Path to the Waterfall was Carver's last book, and shows a writer telling the truth as best as he knows how in the time left to him. The sixty-odd poems in this collection are linked by Carver with selections from other writers, most notably Chekhov, whose work was an inspiration and a guide, and by the cumulative force of the life and death questions he poses in them. As Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet guided countless readers discovering their true love and work, Carver's book will guide those in the process of celebrating a limited life and mourning the inescapable end of it. A New Path to the Waterfall is an essential book for those who admire Carver's work, and testament to the transcendent strength of the human spirit. In her introductory essay, Tess Gallagher, Carver's companion and fellow writer, lays out the circumstances of their last years together with matter-of-fact grace.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)811.54Literature English (North America) American poetry 20th Century 1945-1999
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