Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Dear Mr. Carver:

I know that you were frail. I know your alcoholism was not too many beers at the bar. I know that it wasn't just embarrassing at dinner parties. I know that sobriety makes a drunk feel vulnerable, weak, as though the booze were an extra layer of skin. I have seen the newly sober try to make their way from a door to another door without their cozy armor. I have seen, in other words, men suffering from self-doubt.

Still, still. To see how you let someone come in and control you, someone like GORDON LISH of all people, a buffoon, an ass-kisser, a self-promoter. Was he your maker? Or just your teacher?

What is important is the work. I haven't been able to get the work out of my pen, though I only recently realized that it was there. Getting turned-on by your work is an old habit of mine, one that can never be cured, even by controversies about authorship.

And I've been there, Ray. I have had people tell me--after so long, after waiting and waiting for someone to pick up the ringing line, as I sat with the phone cradled, slipping off my ear from sweat, I waited and waited for an answer, and when it finally came, how could I question the quality of the voice? I know what it is to hear someone you don't know, someone who seems to be in possession of some power, say without reservations, "I believe in you."

Well, not without reservations. "I believe in you, but..."

It's okay, Ray. And anyway, you freed yourself from Lish's apron strings eventually. Maybe if you'd studied, like I do, if you'd been subjected to the opinions of so many critics, you would have gotten there anyway.

But even if you hadn't, I forgive you, Mr. Carver. Your work has meant so much to me. Thank you for writing it. I will thank Mr. Lish, should I ever have the opportunity, for editing it. I would not be the same writer without it.

All the best,
Ilana Manaster

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