Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Raymond Carver and the Student from Hell

Guess what? I've been requested to give backstory on my Raymond Carver story. So here goes.

Raymond Carver was a guest writer in residence at Widget University in the late 1970's. Somehow, in one of my fugue states, I ended up in his class. He scared the bejesus out of me first day. He was a big bear of a man. I was a dainty, little scrawny runt. What made it worse, was that the class wasn't in one of these huge, cavern like rooms, like you see at Hahvard, but a small room, with an oval table, and maybe 20 students. So we could not hide!

He sat at the head of the table and ruled. To make it more intimidating for me, he was pretty scruffy looking, as if he enjoyed wearing his breakfast to school everyday, or as if he just finished eating his breakfast, with a poor little student like me as part of his diet. Surprisingly, he was softspoken, and made extreme economical use of the English language, and that usually involved me trying desperately to fill in the all the blanks so I got the assignment right.

After a student read an excerpt from the assignment they were given, Mr. Carver would sit there and ponder, and ponder, and ponder, not giving any eye to eye contact with the student. (If I were a portrait painter, I would've gotten him on first crack). Then he would say something like, "Alright Jamie sit down," with his head buried in his chin. Then he'd give a big sigh.

He'd asked for the next student, again not looking at the student. This student might read with lots of energy, fire and passion and then he'd come to the end. Mr. Carver would allow us to look at his profile for a few minutes before saying, "Alright Sam sit down. Then he'd give a big sigh, and again not looking at the student.

Eventually of course it was my turn. He did his schtick, and then I read my excerpt. Unfortunately, my excerpts usually contained, blood, sweat, violence and tears. The other students would look at me in horror, wondering what hell I came out of, and of course I was embarrassed as hell.

I was sure I was dead in the water. Mr. Carver sat there for his characteristic five minutes, while I stood in terror, wondering if I was going to live my excerpt. Finally, he looked up at me, and said, Ms Yada, what were you thinking? He stared at me for like five minutes,while I blubbered something about not thinking just writing. He again fixed me with that hynotic stare, or in gothic literature it would be described as a deep, mysterious,and threatening kind of glare, and said, Hmmm, good job.

The other students thought he was nuts. I just thought, my god I survived. Next thought, how was I going to get through the semester? Oh, drop the class. Good plan.

Well, I'll continue more tomorrow. I'm busted. This memory drains me.