King gives voice to the criticism implicit in Sklenicka’s biography. Two excerpts signal King’s fury.
She was beautiful; he was hulking, possessive and sometimes violent. In Carver’s view, his own infidelities did not excuse hers. After Maryann indulged in “a tipsy flirtation” at a dinner party in 1975 — by which time Carver’s alcoholism had reached the full-blown stage — he hit her upside the head with a wine bottle, severing an artery near her ear and almost killing her. “He needed ‘an illusion of freedom,’ ” Sklenicka writes, “but could not bear the thought of her with another man.”
Carver’s savings alone totaled almost $215,000 at the time of his death; Maryann got about $10,000. Carver’s mother got even less: at age 78, she was living in public housing in Sacramento and eking out a living as a “grandmother aide” in an elementary school. Sklenicka doesn’t call this shabby treatment, but I am happy to do it for her.