‘You knew how to live in those days’

Peter Sansom

 

Sometime in the early Nineties my friend Luke Bretherton and I set up a loose collective of artists called Bull. For the price of a bottle of wine friends of friends of friends were invited to my home in Brixton to read, share, perform or display their latest work. The menu was always the same: enough tomato and garlic pasta to float the opening stage of the Tour de France, all washed down by the cheapest red available to humanity. It was inspiring, chaotic, argumentative and charming. It should never have worked. I still don’t know how we got away with it.

Around this time Luke slipped me a cassette recording of an interview given by Raymond Carver to Kay Bonetti for the American Audio Prose Library in 1983. Where he got it from I have no idea. I don’t even know if he kept a copy for himself. Until recently I had completely forgotten I even owned it.

In it you can hear Carver talking about any number of subjects, taking in the beginnings of his writing life; his famed ethic of revision; the change his work underwent between What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Cathedral; his commitment to writing poetry; his views on ‘experimental’ fiction; and a matter of fact account of his alcoholism. Throughout the interview you can hear Carver breathing heavily, occasionally seeming to sigh with the effort of having to talk about himself. Nevertheless, his tone remains calm and courteous throughout. It is a masterclass of rueful wisdom and writerly insight. I hope you enjoy it.