The Poetry of Raymond Carver Makes a Leap to E-Books
Raymond Carver, the noted author of short stories and poetry, died nearly 27 years ago, long before the digital revolution upended the publishing industry. And until now, his legacy has been confined to print.
That will change this week, when 10 of Mr. Carver’s books will be published digitally for the first time. Vintage Books is publishing e-book editions of the author’s entire backlist, including six collections of short stories and four volumes of poetry, for $9.99 to $11.99.
In September, Vintage will publish a digital edition of “Beginners,” the unedited, uncut manuscript of his 1981 collection, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” The unedited collection caused a stir when Mr. Carver’s widow, the poet Tess Gallagher, had it published in 2009. The original draft revealed how extensively the editor Gordon Lish had shaped and pared down Mr. Carver’s stories, altering endings and forging the taut, spare style for which Mr. Carver became known.
Mr. Carver was one of the more prominent writers whose works were still missing from digital catalogs. Last year, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published as an e-book for the first time. Vintage Books released nine of Gabriel García Márquez’s works digitally last September. Vintage also published e-books by James Baldwin and Albert Camus in recent years. J. D. Salinger now stands as one of the last major prose writers whose books are available only in print.
Vintage, a paperback imprint under Penguin Random House, has a catalog of almost 6,000 backlisted books. Nearly 4,900 of those have been converted into e-books. The publisher held off on publishing digital editions of Mr. Carver’s books because early e-book technology often mangled lines of poetry, mashing it into undifferentiated blocks of text.
“Some of the backlists that we have waited on are poetry, because the technology now is so much better than it was a few years ago,” said LuAnn Walther, the senior vice president and director of editorial for Vintage Anchor Books.
Mr. Carver, who is known for his elliptical, minimalist style, has long been celebrated as one of the country’s most influential writers of short stories. In a statement released by Vintage, Ms. Gallagher said that her husband would have been delighted to have his books made available at the touch of a button.
“I used to joke with Ray that his middle name should have been ‘Now,’ because he always wanted everything to occur in the present moment, and he always wanted more of whatever was going,” she said. “It amazes me to realize he could never have predicted all of his writing, both fiction and poetry, would carry the pulse of the American heartbeat into instant availability.”