Places: Where I’m Calling From

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1988

Type of work: Short fiction

Places DiscussedAlcoholic treatment center

Alcoholic Where I’m Calling Fromtreatment center. Fictional institution representative of a real alcohol recovery facility. Frank Martin’s facility is central to the title and characterization of the story. The unnamed narrator, who has already spent a few days at the center when the story opens, describes the various events he has witnessed. For example, he has seen a man suffer seizures from alcohol withdrawal and fears he may experience the same physical reaction. The narrator spends most of his time listening to J. P., another recovering alcoholic at the center. J. P’s dialogues reveal the downward spiral his life has taken because of his drinking.

“Where I’m Calling From” is one of many of Raymond Carver’s stories about alcoholism. Like the problems J. P. and the narrator experience, many of the problems of Carver’s other working-class characters are exacerbated because of alcoholism. At the end of the story, the narrator says that he will call his wife, from whom he is separated. He suspects that his estranged wife will ask where he is calling from, and he knows he will have to tell her. Where he is calling from represents both Frank Martin’s institution and the narrator’s psychological state of mind.

It is significant that the story ends on New Year’s Day, a holiday in which resolutions are made. However, the narrator vows not to make any resolutions. Like the process of recovering from alcohol, the story is open-ended. The story shows a few days at the beginning of that process, which never ends for those recovering. As the symbolic significance of the title suggests, the story concerns the place from which the narrator calls, the psychology of the first few days of an alcoholic’s recovery process.

BibliographyCampbell, Ewing. Raymond Carver: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1992. A good overview of Carver’s stories, with an analysis of twenty-seven stories from the four major collections. A section on “The Writer” includes an interview and Carver’s own essay, “On Writing”; “The Critics” contains essays by three critics. Also includes a chronology and selected bibliography.Meyer, Adam. Raymond Carver. New York: Twayne, 1995. An excellent overview of Carver’s work. Contains a biographical sketch and situates Carver’s influence on “minimalism,” renewed realism, and the renaissance of the short story. Discusses each of his collections and comments briefly on his poetry. Includes an annotated bibliography of selected criticism.Nisset, Kirk. The Stories of Raymond Carver. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1994. The first dissertation on Carver, which has been expanded into a useful introduction to his work.Saltzman, Arthur M. Understanding Raymond Carver. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988. The first book-length study of Carver’s work. Discusses three of the major collections. Does not include commentary on the seven new stories collected in the closing section of Where I’m Calling From. An empathetic reading that considers Carver a “Connoisseur of the Commonplace.”Stull, William L. “Raymond Carver.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1988, edited by J. M. Brook. Detroit: Gale, 1989. The author updates his 1984 Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook entry with this obituary. Surveys Carver’s life as it influenced his art. Includes an overview of the critical reception of Carver’s work and discusses the Carver-Chekhov connection. Also includes two facsimile pages from Carver’s last story, “Errand.”
Categories: Places