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Raymond Carver’s third collection of stories, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, including the canonical titular story about blindness and learning to enter the very different world of another.

It was morning in America when Raymond Carver's Cathedral came out in 1983, but the characters in this dry collection of short stories from the forgotten corners of land of opportunity didn't receive much sunlight. Nothing much happens to the subjects of Carver's fiction, which is precisely why they are so harrowing: nothingness is a daunting presence to overcome. And rarely do they prevail, but the loneliness and quiet struggle the characters endure provide fertile ground for literary triumph, particularly in the hands of Carver, who was perhaps in his best form with this effort.

Raymond Carver (1938-1988) was an author who rejected the more experimental fiction of the 60s and 70s. He pioneered a precisionist realism reinventing the American short story during the eighties, heading the line of so-called "dirty realists" or "K-mart realists". They are stories of banal lives that turn on a seemingly insignificant detail. Carver writes with meticulous economy, suddenly bringing a life into focus in a similar way to the paintings of Edward Hopper. As well as being a master of the short story, he was an accomplished poet publishing several highly acclaimed volumes.

230 pages, Paperback

First published September 15, 1983

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About the author

Raymond Carver

350 books4,406 followers
Carver was born into a poverty-stricken family at the tail-end of the Depression. He married at 19, started a series of menial jobs and his own career of 'full-time drinking as a serious pursuit', a career that would eventually kill him. Constantly struggling to support his wife and family, Carver enrolled in a writing programme under author John Gardner in 1958. He saw this opportunity as a turning point.

Rejecting the more experimental fiction of the 60s and 70s, he pioneered a precisionist realism reinventing the American short story during the eighties, heading the line of so-called 'dirty realists' or 'K-mart realists'. Set in trailer parks and shopping malls, they are stories of banal lives that turn on a seemingly insignificant detail. Carver writes with meticulous economy, suddenly bringing a life into focus in a similar way to the paintings of Edward Hopper. As well as being a master of the short story, he was an accomplished poet publishing several highly acclaimed volumes.

After the 'line of demarcation' in Carver's life - 2 June 1977, the day he stopped drinking - his stories become increasingly more redemptive and expansive. Alcohol had eventually shattered his health, his work and his family - his first marriage effectively ending in 1978. He finally married his long-term parter Tess Gallagher (they met ten years earlier at a writers' conference in Dallas) in Reno, Nevada, less than two months before he eventually lost his fight with cancer.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,163 reviews
Profile Image for Luca Ambrosino.
83 reviews13.7k followers
February 2, 2020
English (Cathedral) / Italiano

This collection of twelve stories by Raymond Carver is the perfect example of how to compromise the reader's frame of mind by talking about daily events. Thanks also to a minimal prose, Carver has the great virtue of guessing more than any other author that the everyday and the ordinary, such as a home accident, a watch robbery or even the death are the most familiar events that bind us to life. The result is an emotional earthquake in the reader. Among the twelve short novels, in my opinion A Small, Good Thing deserves a special mention: an absolute masterpiece of unnatural perfection!

And for the record: a short story can tell more than a thousand novels.

Vote: 9


La raccolta di dodici racconti di Raymond Carver rappresenta l'esempio perfetto di come mettere in subbuglio l'animo del lettore parlando di fatti quotidiani. Grazie anche ad una prosa semplice e minimale, Carver ha il grande pregio di intuire più di ogni altro autore che il quotidiano e l’ordinario, come un incidente domestico, il furto di un orologio o la morte stessa, sono quanto di più familiare ci lega alla vita. Il risultato è un terremoto emotivo in chi legge. Una menzione speciale merita per me "Una cosa piccola ma buona", capolavoro assoluto di innaturale perfezione!

Per la cronaca: un racconto può dire più di mille romanzi.

Voto 9

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
August 31, 2021
Cathedral (stories), Raymond Carver

Cathedral is the third major-press collection of short stories by American writer Raymond Carver, published in 1983.

The collection contains the following stories:
Chef's House,
The Compartment,
A Small, Good Thing - An extended version of his earlier short story "The Bath".
Where I'm Calling From,
The Train,
The Bridle,
Cathedral - Narrated by a man whose wife is old friends with a blind man, the story shows the husband/narrator's distaste for the blind man who is coming to visit him and his wife for a few days. At times it seems that the man is jealous of the blind man for being so close to his wife; at other times it seems that the husband is disgusted by the man's blindness. In the end they bond in a way through the communication they share about what a cathedral looks like.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و نهم ماه آوریل سال 2012میلادی

عنوان: کلیسای جامع (چند داستان)؛ نویسنده: ریموند کارور؛ مترجم: فرزانه طاهری؛ تهران، نیلوفر، 1377؛ در 323ص؛ چاپ دوم 1379؛ چاپ سوم سال 1381؛ شابک: 9644480643؛ موضوع داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

زندگی آدم­های «کاروِِر» انگار همین زندگی و درماندگی ­است؛ تصویرها انگار یخ زده­ اند؛ گرما ندارند، مرده اند، دل را نمی­لرزانند؛ اما کشش دارند، هیجان و ماجرا نیست، همین زندگی است؛ ...؛

نقل نمونه متن: (تابستان آن سال زنم دنبال کار میگشته؛ پول و پله ای در بساط نداشته؛ مردی که میخواست آخر تابستان باهاش عروسی کند توی دانشکده ی افسری درس میخوانده؛ او هم پول و پله ای نداشته؛ اما زنم عاشقش بوده، و او هم عاشق زنم بوده و از این حرفها؛ توی روزنامه خوانده که: به فردی برای خواندن برای یک مرد نابینا نیازمندیم؛ یک شماره تلفن هم داده بودند؛ تلفن زده و رفته و در دم استخدام شده؛ تمام تابستان را با این مرد کور کار کرده؛ برایش چیز میخوانده، پرونده و گزارش و اینجور چیزها؛ کمکش کرده تا دفتر کوچکش را در اداره ی خدمات اجتماعی شهر سر و سامان بدهد؛ زنم و آن مرد کور با هم دوست شدند؛ من از کجا میدانم؟ زنم برایم تعریف کرده است؛ یک چیز دیگر هم برایم تعریف کرده؛ ...؛)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 12/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 08/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,423 reviews3,377 followers
February 5, 2021
The ways others live often are a surprise to us…
The peacock walked quickly around the table and went for the baby. It ran its long neck across the baby’s legs. It pushed its beak in under the baby’s pajama top and shook its stiff head back and forth. The baby laughed and kicked its feet. Scooting onto its back, the baby worked its way over Fran’s knees and down onto the floor. The peacock kept pushing against the baby, as if it was a game they were playing.

The way we live often seems strange to others…
We drank coffee, pop, and all kinds of fruit juice that summer. The whole summer, that’s what we had to drink. I found myself wishing the summer wouldn’t end. I knew better, but after a month of being with Wes in Chef’s house, I put my wedding ring back on. I hadn’t worn the ring in two years. Not since the night Wes was drunk and threw his ring into a peach orchard.

Cathedral is a compendium of human misery: failed marriages, broken hearts, family disasters, impoverishment, adultery, foolishness and heavy drinking…
“Jack London used to have a big place on the other side of this valley. Right over there behind that green hill you’re looking at. But alcohol killed him. Let that be a lesson to you. He was a better man than any of us. But he couldn’t handle the stuff, either.”

We know that many things we do are destroying us but we can’t stop.
Profile Image for مريم عادل.
174 reviews10 followers
February 1, 2021
رايموند كارفر أحد أشهر كتاب القصة القصيرة في الأدب الأمريكي المعاصر، لكني لم ألمس عبقريته في المجموعة الحالية، ربما بسبب النهايات المبتورة
تبدأ القصص بشكل جيد، تتصاعد الأحداث بوتيرة هادئة بعض الشئ أحيانا، وسريعة أحيانا أخرى، لكنك لا تفقد شغفك بالقصة، وتتابعها بفضول أكبر، لتصدمك النهايات السطحية للغاية لمعظم القصص، كأن الكاتب مل من الكتابة وقرر التوقف فجأة
Profile Image for Adina.
827 reviews3,228 followers
May 16, 2023
Read with The Short Story Club

I vaguely heard of the short story Cathedral, probably due to spending too much time on GR. I knew it was famous and I was looking forward to reading Carver anyway. I listened to an audiobook with audience. It was the 1st time I experienced this medium and I did not enjoy it. Based on the people reaction, it was supposed to be a comedy but I did not laugh once. To me, it was more of a drama. Two men, one of them blind, are trying to feel and imagine what the other one is seeing/experience. It was an interesting theme and I should have been touched in a way. However, I did not feel anything. I am not sure if the reason was the reactions of the audience or that the story was not for me.
Profile Image for Lea.
117 reviews338 followers
January 22, 2023
Carver, a patron saint of postmodernism realism, is a great master of perfectly capturing the reader with snapshots of the completely ordinary misery of working-class Americans. What John Willams and perhaps Seethaler do in novels of mundane desperation intertwined with unusual peace, he manages to do in short stories, masterfully. With withdrawn prose, almost a distant and unattached observer, simple but calculated in style and structure, his stories convey a deeply emotional atmosphere without out ever diverging from raw descriptions of concrete reality. In Carver’s stories, there is a hit of absurdity, humor, sorrow, regret, unease, alienation, and most prominent, the confusion that seemingly mundane events create in an ordinary person. Carver’s characters have the sense of instability of an adult person that is living in a world still not accustomed to it, still at wonder at how life works, at the absurdity and irony that can hit a person at every corner, even in expected events.
Carver was extremely calculated in writing short stories, re-writing them again and again, often shorting them from 30 to 10 pages, in order to distill the essence and, extremely successfully, maximize the impact on the reader.
As a younger reader, I preferred the dense, lyrical, more lush poetic style of writing the most, but with years I appreciate more and more writers who manage to be so deeply impactful and memorable, using almost no literary devices. In my opinion, Carver's clear influences are laconian Hemingway, the great minimalism of Chekov and a bit of absurdism of Kafka, Joyce and Beckett and Carver himself inspired the cult following and a whole new generation of American “lost” writers such as Bret Easton Ellis, David Leavitt, Jay McInerney and I would say even DeLillo, most mirroring in the peculiar sense of disorientation in a world of capitalism.
With the abrupt ending, which gives no real explanation, he gives real “lifelike” quality, as the stories were short and memorable anecdotes told by a person you met at the bar or the train station.
Carver leaves an open ending, as events in our life have, not imposing symbolism or moral of the story, creating stories as multifaceted mirrors that can be interpreted according to readers' mood. Those who only believe in gloomy, ascetic minimalist Carver fail to see the humor and comedy of many characters and situations in his prose. Those who primarily emphasize the bizarreness and grotesqueness of Carver's characters forget about their essential humanity and tendency towards sentimentality.
There is no big philosophical idea, existential viewpoint, historical perspective or political agenda that Carver is trying to impose on the reader. Don't go to his world for big adventures, ideas, and passions. His world is a narrow world of semi-industrialized, provincial cities, modest spiritual, psychological and material possibilities and an almost claustrophobic feeling of living a life you did not intend to live.

“There is no answer. It's okay. But even if it wasn't okay, what am I supposed to do?”

Carver’s realism can be viewed as a protest, or a simple opposition to the classical mind games of postmodernism in double mirrors, meta-meta-associations, and all kinds of other literary games and tricks.
Carver exercises the art of exclusion at the finest, which is a consequence of the strictness of the form but not at the expense of the richness of nuances and finer shades in the human destinies it depicts.
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,356 reviews11.8k followers
June 12, 2017

American author Raymond Carver (1938-1988) - master of the short-story

A dozen Raymond Carver stories collected here as part of the 1980s Vintage Contemporaries series. Since other reviewers have commented on all twelve, I’ll share some short-short cuts from the title story, my reflections on Carver doozy, a story I dearly love. Here goes:


The Blind Man: The narrator’s wife is bringing her old friend, a blind man, home for a visit since the blind man made the trip to Connecticut to visit relatives following the death of his wife. The narrator’s idea of blindness and what it means to be a blind man comes from the movies. Such a telling detail of lower-middle-class Carver country, life saturated by popular culture, especially movies and television. (Although the narrator remains nameless throughout the story, I sense his name is Al, so I’ll take the liberty to occasionally refer to the narrator as Al).

Poetry: Al’s wife writes poems, one such poem about how during her last session with the blind man, she let him touch her face and neck with his fingers. And Al’s reaction to poetry? “I admit it’s not the first thing I reach for when I pick up something to read.” Ha! What understatement – "not the first thing I reach for" - matter of fact, safe to say Al hasn’t come within a mile of reading a poem since high school English class. I can clearly envision Al rolling his eyes as he grumbles under his breath: "Damn sissy stuff."

Lifeless Bitter Pill: The narrator conveys some of his wife’s background, how she married her childhood sweetheart, etc. It’s that "et cetera" that underlines Al’s distaste for life. For Al, life is a bitter pill. Black bile Al. His words about his wife’s despair and attempted suicide before she met him are entirely devoid of emotion and as flat and as cold as a frozen pancake.

Recreation: Al’s wife has been trading tapes with the blind man over the years. Al demeans the tapes along with his wife’s poetry, calling them her chief means of recreation. At one point, listening to one of the tapes, Al does get extremely upset. We read: “My own name in the mouth of this stranger, this blind man I didn’t even know!” A key revealer of what Al really values and finds important as he sings that all too familiar song: “It’s all about me.”

Pathetic: The blind man lived with his wife and after she fell ill, had to sit by his wife’s side holding her hand in the hospital and then bury her when she died. “All this without his having ever seen what the goddamned woman looked like. It was beyond my understanding.” The narrator goes on to tell us how the blind man is left with a small insurance policy and half a Mexican coin. “The other half of the coin went into the box with her. Pathetic.” The perfect word since, ironically, what is truly pathetic is the narrator’s hard-boiled, heartless cynicism.

Creepy: As Al waits for his wife to return with the blind man from the station, what does he do? The two big pastimes in Carver country: drink and watch TV. When the blind man does arrive, the narrator is surprised he doesn’t use a cane or wear dark glasses. He looks carefully at Robert’s eyes (the blind man’s name is Robert) and conveys the detail of what he sees. His overarching observation: creepy.

Family Prayer: After a few snide, sarcastic questions and remarks hurled at Robert courtesy of our narrator as they smoke and drink in the living room, all three sit down at the table for dinner. Before they all dig in, we read: “Now let us pray.” I said, and the blind man lowered his head. My wife looked at me, her mouth agape. “Pray the phone won’t ring and the food doesn’t get cold.”” Raymond Carver, you sly dog, slipping this belly-laugher into your bleak tale. Actually, one thing that is not pathetic, even for black bile Al: serious eating. When all else fails, always the animal pleasure of chowing down on steak and potatoes and strawberry pie.

Rat Wheel: After-dinner conversation and Al finds out that Robert has done a little of everything (“a regular blind jack-of-all-trades”). In turn, Robert asks a few questions about Al's job and almost predictably the narrator’s answers are: 1) three years at present position, 2) don’t like it, and 3) no real options to get out. Work as a deadening reinforcement that life is an unending rat wheel. But the narrator has one surefire way to deal with the rat wheel: every night he smokes dope and stays up as long as he can.

TV and Dope to the Rescue: When the conversation peters out, TV to the rescue. Al turns on the set and his wife leaves to change into her nightgown and robe. Alone together, Al treats Robert to a little cannabis. When the narrator’s wife returns Robert tells her there is always a first time for everything. She takes a seat on the coach and joins them. As the narrator observes: the blind man was inhaling as if he has been smoking weed since he was nine.

The Creative Act: Al’s wife falls asleep on the coach and he and Robert watch a TV program about medieval cathedrals. The narrator questions Robert on how much he knows about cathedrals, just how big they are. Robert suggests they engage in a little artwork together so the narrator can show him all about cathedrals. Down on the living room carpet, armed with pen and paper, Al and Robert, hand on hand, begin their artwork. Then, the unexpected happens during their joint creativity. Robert tell the narrator to close his eyes and asks him what he thinks.

MU: The narrator says it is like nothing else in his life up to now; how he doesn’t feel like he’s inside anything. It’s really something. ----- My reading of the narrator's experience: He finally lets go of his self-preoccupation and crusty cynicism and has a direct experience of that other side of life, the one beyond ego, beyond judgements, beyond all categories, life as boundless awareness. In Zen, this is called Satori but for right now on his hands and knees on the living room carpet, it has no name and it needs no name.

Black Painting No. 34, 1964 by American Artist, Ad Reinhardt
Profile Image for Robin.
484 reviews2,618 followers
July 15, 2019
"Dreams, you know, are what you wake up from."

My heart is in my throat after finishing this magnificent collection. I've spent most of the day reading these stories, as I can't think of anything else I'd rather do.

This is both Carver's third collection and the third one I've read. This time, his work was published without the ruthless editorial hand of Gordon Lish, which is evidenced by longer, more detailed stories. It feels like Carver was stretching his legs a bit here, with pretty great results.

Some of the stories are semi-autobiographical, and many are dark. But there are a few that have a softer, affirming feel - a small light in the darkness. They are all excellent, but here are the standouts for me:

* 'Chef's House' - a sobered up alcoholic invites his estranged wife to spend the summer with him in a rented house; we see how precarious his sobriety is.
* 'Preservation' - an out of work man takes to the couch, paralysed and trapped while his wife despairs and works - until one day the refrigerator breaks.
* 'A Small, Good Thing' - parents are dealing with the hit and run accident of their seven year old boy, comfort to be found in the most unexpected place. (This is an extended version of 'The Bath' found in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Really not sure which one I love more!)
* 'Careful' - an alcoholic man's ears are blocked and his ideas of acceptable behaviour change with each swig of the champagne bottle.
* 'Fever' - one of the optimistic stories I mentioned earlier, this tale is about how a newly single father struggling to accept the abandonment of his wife, sees that even if love ends badly, it was still love.
* 'Cathedral' - my absolute favourite of the collection. A blind man teaches a sighted man new ways to see. I personally couldn't see for tears by this line on the last page: "It was like nothing else in my life up to now."

A few nerdy notes to mention: 'The Compartment' is a sequel to a previous Carver story, 'Put Yourself in My Shoes'. And 'The Train' is a sequel to John Cheever's story, 'The Five Forty-Eight'.

I really can't say how I feel about Raymond Carver without getting all sloppy and sentimental. But I will say I felt welcome here, welcomed into the crux of the lives depicted in his pages through his very accessible prose, guided by his expert hand, trusted with the contents of his heart. I'm so glad Raymond Carver lived and wrote. There's a reason why he still remains an influential figure, particularly in regards to the short story form.
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,532 followers
January 2, 2016
Raymond Carver is one of the most influential writers of the late 20th century, and this volume, published five years before his tragically early death at 50, has the feel of an American classic.

It includes some of his most famous short stories: “Feathers,” “Chef’s House," “A Small, Good Thing,” “Vitamins,” “Where I’m Calling From” and the mysterious title tale.

I’ve read and studied some of the stories before, but this was my first time reading the book cover to cover. Here are a few observations:

1. Boy do these stories ever resonate during a recession
I’d forgotten how many unemployed people there are in the book. Consider some of these opening sentences:

“Sandy’s husband had been on the sofa ever since he’d been terminated three months ago” (“Preservation”)

“I had a job and Patti didn’t. I worked a few hours a night for the hospital. It was a nothing job. I did some work, signed the card for eight hours, went drinking with the nurses. After a while, Patti wanted a job. She said she needed a job for her self-respect. So she started selling multiple vitamins door to door.” (“Vitamins”)

“This old station wagon with Minnesota plates pulls into a parking space in front of the window. There’s a man and woman in the front seat, two boys in the back. It’s July, temperature’s one hundred plus. These people look whipped. There are clothes hanging inside; suitcases, boxes, and such piled in back. From what Harley and I put together later, that’s all they had left after the bank in Minnesota took their house, their pickup, their tractor, the farm implements, and a few cows.” (“The Bridle”)

2. Not all the characters are working class
Carver’s known as the poet of the working class, and many critics say his diction – no fancy words or constructions – evokes the language of ordinary working folks. Consider the book’s opening lines:

This friend of mine from work, Bud, he asked Fran and me to supper. I didn’t know his wife and he didn’t know Fran. That made us even. But Bud and I were friends.

So it’s surprising to find many professionals in these stories. The dad worrying about his comatose son in “A Small, Good Thing” has an “advanced degree in business, a junior partnership in an investment firm.” In “The Compartment,” Myers, who’s travelling to see his estranged son in Europe, is an executive who can afford to be in first-class. Carlyle, the man whose wife suddenly leaves him and their daughter in “Fever,” is a high school art teacher.

3. These tales are beautifully constructed
Perhaps not surprising, considering that the book’s title is Cathedral. Carver is a master architect in setting up plot and character. He knows when to offer up dialogue and when to deliver exposition. “Chef’s House,” about a divorced couple’s attempt to get back after the husband has sobered up and found them a paradise of a home, is only six or seven pages long, but you're given a perfect sense of the couple’s troubled past and get a satisfying glimpse of the wonderful summer before their fortunes change. It's a model of economy and compression.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to conceal stories within stories, look at “Where I’m Calling From,” set in a "drying-out facility." In a sense storytelling is a part of the plot; the rehab characters listen to others tell stories to distract them from their own troubles. Which brings me to...

4. There are a lot of alcoholics in this book
Like Fitzgerald, Hemingway (to whom he's often compared) and his good friend John Cheever, Carver struggled with booze. But he cleaned up, got sober and set to work. I once heard a fascinating theory that many of his stories feel like those confessionals you deliver in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs. “My name is X and I'm an alcoholic. I’ve gone through hell, but I’ve survived to tell my story. Here it is. This is where I'm calling from.”

5. There are lots of hands on legs
I counted at least four instances where characters put hands on other people's legs. Weird, eh?

6. That voice!
Carver's voice is so distinct it was imitated by many, and of course it lends itself to parody. The language and the cadences seem so simple, but there's so much lurking beneath the words (just take a look at the examples in this review). Hint: don't read his stories too quickly, even if they seem straightforward. Carver was also an accomplished poet. Read some lines aloud if you can. Even the "he said" and "she said"'s contribute to the rhythm. And despite some bleak themes, there's lots of humour.

7. Some epiphanies feel forced
Carver’s narrators often stumble upon a revelation, usually on the penultimate page of a story. Here are some examples (emphases are mine):

“Wes, it’s all right, I said. I brought his hand to my cheek. Then, I don’t know, I remembered how he was when he was nineteen, the way he looked running across this field to where his dad sat on a tractor, hand over his eyes, watching Wes run toward him.” (“Chef’s House”)

“I’m thinking about chimney sweeps – all that stuff I heard from J.P. – when for some reason I start to think about a house my wife and I once lived in.” (“Where I’m Calling From”)

“Mrs. Webster looked at Carlyle and waved. It was then, as he stood at the window, that he felt something come to an end. It had to do with Eileen and the life before this. Had he ever waved at her?” ("Fever")

Fine writing, but there’s something a touch contrived about the effects. Carver spells things out a little too clearly, with a faux naive “Aw shucks, I don’t know why but this is what I did” attitude.

8. There’s something spiritual about Carver’s writing
Carver’s stories aren’t religious, but they are spiritual. Perhaps it’s because his people suffer so much. Their pasts are a hazy blur of drunken excess and violence; they’ve abandoned wives and children; being jobless has left them without an anchor; their children are in hospital or they’re sick themselves... Because of all of this they’re searching for something, anything: redemption, grace, a vision of happiness.

From the final lines of “Cathedral”:

So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now.

You could say the same thing about these deceptively simple yet extraordinary stories.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
May 15, 2023
After two collections of beautifully written, lean but grim and mercilessly sad working class stories, Carver lets the reins loose a bit in this 1983 collection, allowing some of the stories to expand just a bit, in various ways. Almost all of the stories in Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (1976) and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981) are about working-class people on the edge of tragedy, or seen at the end of a slow tragic decline, though it’s not classic tragedy, of a great man—say, Macbeth, a noble soldier pricked by the spur of his own ambition—but a factory rat brought down by an affair, say, and by his own drunken bumbling.

The first story in this collection, “Feathers,” signals the change, maybe, by identifying the tale as a “low rent tragedy.” In this collection, sometimes still featuring such AA-based tragedies, there’s more humor, fuller descriptions, the pace slows a bit for more to happen, for us to get to know the characters as more fully human, though most of all there’s a generosity of spirit you don’t see to this extent in the earlier collections.

The best example of how this works is in a story that gets revised here. “The Bath” is a story in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love; it’s a story about an eight-year-old boy hit by a car and in a coma on his birthday. The day before, his mother had ordered a cake for him. At different points both the mother and father take breaks from sitting near their son, and they get annoying calls. They are too distracted to remember the baker and the cake. The phone is ringing, and they all seem lost, nothing is resolved. The tone is harsh, devastating, unrelentingly sad. None of the people connect when they so need to. Various sources reveal that an earlier version of the story is fuller, but editor Gordon Lish wouldn’t publish it until it was stripped to the bone.

In Carver’s revision of “The Bath” in “A Small, Good Thing” he lengthens it considerably, letting us get to know the parents better. But the change in the story becomes dramatic when, in this version, the parents drive to confront the baker in their grief and rage against the world. We don’t get to know the baker at all in “The Bath,” but something astonishing happens here, as the baker hears what has happened, realizes that the boy has been hospitalized, and he reaches out to the broken couple, offering them freshly baked bread which, in communion fashion, in family fashion, they share together. Sometimes “a small, good thing” such as breaking bread together is essential in restoring some small measure of grace and humanity. I thought that “The Bath” was technically amazing, but in the closing pages of the revised story I was reduced to tears. Until this point that had never happened to me in a Carver story. It’s wonderful.

There are other such stories in this collection where you find that similar grace happens, but possibly one of Carver’s greatest stories, maybe one of the best stories ever, is the story that concludes the collection, “Cathedral.” Narrated by a man whose wife is old friends with a blind man, the story reveals the narrator doesn’t initially like (or understand) the blind man. There’s a rich intimacy that his wife and the blind man have that makes him irritable, jealous. The narrator’s life is going nowhere, he just likes to get stoned and watch tv, but the blind man is rich and “insightful” in a way the husband is not. There’s a program about cathedrals on tv, and our narrator tries to tell him what a cathedral looks like, and fails. The blind man asks our narrator to get some paper and a pen and to begin drawing a cathedral, with his hand over the narrator’s hand.

“'Close your eyes now,' the blind man said to me. I did it. I closed them just like he said.
'Are they closed?' he said. 'Don't fudge.'
'They're closed,' I said.
'Keep them that way,' he said. He said, 'Don't stop now. Draw.'

So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now.

Then he said, 'I think that's it. I think you got it,' he said. 'Take a look. What do you think?'

But I had my eyes closed. I thought I'd keep them that way for a little longer. I thought it was something I ought to do.

'Well?" he said. 'Are you looking?'

My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn't feel like I was inside anything.

'It's really something,' I said.”

In this story a small but significant miracle happens. The majesty and power of a cathedral become clear, sure, but also the power of imagination, and relationship. Our selfish narrator learns for a bit what it might be like to be blind, to live in someone else’s shoes.

And I am thinking about it right now as the social discourse continues to deteriorate. We need desperately to learn from each other and experience beauty in each other. In Carver’s previous stories, the man might just have remained lost, stoned, as his wife meets her old friend; in this story, though, there emerges the possibility of redemption, of life change.

Here, read it today, if you get the chance: http://www.giuliotortello.it/ebook/ca...

This is long, but it is Stephen King on Carver, a terrific review:


What I agree about the review is that the heavily Gordon Lish-edited stories seem technically virtuoso, yet in some way almost nihilistic. I think of them as Edward Hopper visions of loneliness and grief; but in the best of this collection Carver finally has achieved heart, attaining at moments the height of the master he so loved, Chekhov.
Profile Image for Sr3yas.
223 reviews997 followers
February 21, 2018
I had no Idea who Raymond Carver was before I picked this collection of short stories. Of course, I asked the great oracles of the Internet to feed me information about him, and they told me that Mr.Carver is one of the American literary gods who revived the dying short story literary form in the 80s. My primary concern was for the short story medium that almost died in the 80s, and don't worry, I checked and they are thriving nowadays.

As I read Carver's stories, I understood that he is a maestro in creating minimalistic stories that hold a plethora of themes inside its simple exterior. To be honest, his stories can be considered as disguised ciphers, as while reading, you may think the story is about bananas, but in fact, It might just be about the potassium and carbohydrates or even oranges.

The bananas are just a metaphor, Carver never wrote about bananas to my knowledge. His themes were repetitive, yet effective, and he wrote about isolation, loneliness, alcoholism, marriages, miscommunication, and the human condition. Most of the stories in Cathedral uses middle-class couples and their marriages as stage setting, and from there Carver unleashes a torrent of words to create effective stories.

There were twelve short stories, and while I enjoyed all of them, these are my top three picks:

A Small, Good Thing: This one hit me hard. Too hard, to be honest. It's about a couple in a hospital waiting for the news about their young son's recovery from a hit-and-run case. The pain, the uncertainty, and the fear are so well written that you couldn't help but be in the room with the characters. If I am asked to recommend one serious short story to anyone, this will be the one I endorse.

Feathers: This one is about an evening dinner with two colleagues and their wives. The story is filled with metaphors and bewildering domestic moments, but it was the uncomfortable feelings of the characters, that kind of osmosis to the reader, made me enjoy this story immensely.

The Compartment: In this story, we find ourselves riding a train with a man who is traveling to meet his estranged son. Richly told, and it was the implication of the story's finale which made me love this tale.

Parting thoughts

Carver writes stories which are brimming with life. Yes, it is a depressing set, but no one can ever accuse them of being dull. Also, If you are the right kind of audience, it will invoke insecurities and fears you never knew you had.

It sure did for me.

Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,057 reviews1,721 followers
February 12, 2019
یادمه اولین باری که به اسم کارور برخوردم، توی یه نشریه داستان دانشجویی بود که برادرم آورده بود خونه. یک نقد از یک داستان کارور، که چی زیادی ازش دستگیرم نشد. نوجوان بودم، پونزده شونزده ساله، و مشتاق و بدون راهنما.

بر خلاف جیمز جویس و فاکنر، که اشتباه کردم و توی اون سن نوجوانی رفتم سراغشون و لذتی که ممکن بود ببرم رو به هراس تبدیل کردم، بخت یارم بود و غیر از اون نقد، چیز دیگه ای از کارور دستم نیفتاد. کارور برام شد نماد داستان مدرن، بدون این که چیزی ازش خونده باشم.

حالا بعد از ده دوازده سال، بعد از خوندن کتاب «داستان‌های مدرن�� حسین پاینده (کتابی که خیلی ازش یاد گرفتم) حس کردم دیگه وقتشه کارور رو بخونم. و واقعاً هم وقتش بود، و نتیجه ش شد داستان هایی که راحت و بی دردسر و با لذت می خوندم.

این که گفتم «حالا وقتشه» به خاطر این نیست که کارور در نظرم مقام خدایی داشته باشه و فقط اوحده ای از مردم می تونن به درک کلماتش نائل بشن، نه. ولی در مورد شخص خودم یه چیزی هست: متوجه شدم که ذهنیت من و انتظار من از یک چیز تأثیر خیلی زیادی داره روی تجربه‌م از اون چیز. اگه انتظارم و ذهنیتم نادرست باشه، از اون چیز بدم میاد یا به نظرم بی ارزش میاد. در حالی که اگر انتظاراتم رو تغییر بدم و بدونم قراره با چه چیزی مواجه بشم، خیلی راحت با اون چیز کنار میام و حتی ازش لذت می برم. و فکر می کنم بعد از خوندن کتاب «داستان‌های مدرن» حسین پاینده، تازه ذهنیتم نسبت به داستان مدرن شکل درستی گرفته.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,116 reviews3,960 followers
May 23, 2023
Review of title story, Cathedral

When I was a small child, I was scared of a very elderly neighbour who was, in my probably exaggerated memory, a hunchback, who always wore black, and whose hands were as gnarled as the walking stick she waved threateningly as she croaked at passing children. I associated her with wicked witches from fairytales (it was before Harry Potter made them more appealing). It wasn’t just her. I was wary of anyone with a physical deformity or skin condition, but I was more sympathetic to the few people I saw in wheelchairs or who were blind, though in both cases, I assumed the impairment was total.

I grew up, as most people do, and as I learned more about my fellow humans, my fear or loathing ebbed away. In that time, society has grown up too: people with disabilities have become more visible: there is more provision (educational, architectural, technological, pharmaceutical, surgical), and acceptance - though there’s still room for improvement.

Which one is blind?

This story is from 1983, but it feels at least a generation older, because the narrator has a bizarre and horrible revulsion for blind people. He knows blind people only from movies and expects dark glasses, a cane, and for them to move slowly, never laugh, be clean-shaven, and unable to smoke!

There are unrelated reasons he may be uneasy about the visit of Robert, who his wife worked for one summer, a decade ago, but his disgust of the blind is visceral, ignorant, and general. His opening words are “This blind man”, quickly and repeatedly followed by “the blind man”, and also “her blind man”. No name; just a disability.


I didn’t fully believe in the character of the husband, so I wasn't fully convinced by his possible Damascene moment, but it was a sort of inversion of a familiar fable:

Image: Illustration of the story of blind people trying to describe an elephant by feeling one small part each. (Source)


• “It was a little wedding - who’d want to go to such a wedding in the first place?” [Robert’s wedding to a sighted woman]

• “I found myself thinking what a pitiful life this woman must have led. Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one... Someone who could wear makeup or not - what difference to him?”

See also

I’ve enjoyed a collection of Carver short stories before - both in their original form Beginners), and their highly edited form ( see my review What We Talk about When We Talk about Love). This was different.

Short story club

I reread this as one of the stories in The Art of the Short Story, by Dana Gioia, from which I'm aiming to read one story a week with The Short Story Club, starting 2 May 2022.

You can read this story here.

You can join the group here.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,734 reviews14.1k followers
November 10, 2018
A very interesting short, showcasing a blind man who doesn't let his blindness limit him in any way. Turns a skeptic, who was uncomfortable about his blindness, into a man who lesrns by the gift of touch. There are many different ways of seeing, and not all use sight.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,689 reviews451 followers
May 10, 2023
I read "Cathedral", the titular short story in this collection. The narrator and his wife are visited by Robert, a longtime friend and past employer of the wife. The narrator is meeting Robert for the first time and feels superior because Robert is blind.

Robert is able to form a connection with the emotionally isolated narrator after they watch a TV program about cathedrals. The blind man is interested in the human element and sense of community when multiple generations work together to build a cathedral. His vision of a cathedral is more than just a place with gorgeous architecture, but a place for worship and forming human connections.

The story has a theme about seeing with one's eyes contrasted with seeing and understanding things below the surface. Robert may be blind, but he has the greater understanding and forms deep, meaningful relationships.

Rereading for the Short Story Club.

Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,376 reviews2,249 followers
May 29, 2022

Third collection of Carver's work I have now read, and along with What We Talk About When We Talk About Love will probably end up being the best short story collection I'll ever read in my life. Again produces some quite remarkable short stories, with a scrupulously simple prose full of compassion and honesty, all with a keen eye set only on describing and revealing the world as he sees it. He manages to create situations that are so breathtakingly real, and all done in such a short space of time. He captures emotions, actions and mannerisms, and all those little things we take for granted in life and sometimes fail to see with our own eyes. He takes the ordinary, mundane folk of America, and just makes them so bloody readable! This collection, more than his others, had more of an edge to it. A true master of short fiction. A one of a kind. All twelve stories in this collection where pretty much flawless. Not a single dud. But If I had to pick out a third of them as my absolute faves they would be - A Small, Good Thing, Vitamins, Where I'm Calling from, and Cathedral.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,019 reviews458 followers
December 17, 2020
Before writing this review I did some snooping around, finding out exactly when these stories were originally published and where, and then as a result of doing that snooping reading about Carver’s life…and from all of that getting the impression that this writer is one of the more revered writers in the United States in the 20th century. Overall rating is 3.5 which when rounded would be 4 in my book, and so that is that. 🧐

Following are the names of the 12 stories and when and where they were originally published. A general comment is that I thought the writing was indeed very good. Not flowery sentences. No bullshit. I found this interesting regarding his sparse writing style:
• Carver's editor at Esquire, Gordon Lish, was instrumental in shaping his prose in this direction – where his earlier tutor John Gardner had advised Carver to use fifteen words instead of twenty-five, Lish instructed Carver to use five in place of fifteen. Objecting to the "surgical amputation and transplantation" of Lish's heavy editing, Carver eventually broke with him. From: Raymond Carver - Wikipedia

Feathers, 3.5 [The Atlantic Monthly, September 1982]
Chef’s House, 3 [The New Yorker, November 30, 1981]
Preservation, 2.5 [Grand Street, 1983]
The Compartment, 4 [Granta, Issue 21, Dirty Realism [New Writing from America], pp. 67-78, 1983]
A Small, Good Thing, 3 [Columbia, 1981]
Vitamins, 2.5 [Granta, March 1981]
Careful, 3 [The Paris Review, 1983]
Where I’m Calling From, 3 [The New Yorker, March 15, 1982]
The Train, 3 [Antaeus, 1983]
Fever, 5 [North American Review, 1983]
The Bridle, 4 [The New Yorker, July 19, 1982]
Cathedral, 5 [The Atlantic Monthly, September 1981]

The following is information I found from Cathedral (short story) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedr...
• The short story "Cathedral" was included in Best American Short Stories, 1982. It is the final story in Carver's collection Cathedral (1983). With its publication, Carver finally received the critical praise he had longed for. "Cathedral" is generally considered to be one of Carver's finest works, displaying both his expertise in crafting a minimalist story and also writing about a catharsis with such simple storylines.[2] The author commented in an interview: “The story "Cathedral" seemed to me completely different from everything I'd written before. I was in a period of generosity. The character there is full of prejudices against blind people. He changes; he grows. The sighted man changes. He puts himself in the blind man's place. The story affirms something.”

• Carver was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1984 for this collection (William Kennedy won with Ironweed). John Updike selected the “Where I’m Calling From” for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century.
• Raymond Carver, in 1983 was chosen to receive an award of $35,000 a year tax free for a minimum of five years. The grant at that time was among the largest available to writers. “The awards, known as The Mildred and Harold Strauss Livings, are the result of a bequest from Mr. and Mrs. Strauss [Mr. Strauss was editor in chief of Alfred A. Knopf Inc., the publishing house, from 1942 until 1966] who wanted to provide proven authors with an annual stipend to cover their living expenses so they could devote their time exclusively to writing. Winners of the award must, if they are employed, resign their positions before receiving the Strauss Livings.” Carver resigned his professorial position at Syracuse University in the English Department.
• Carver's career was dedicated to short stories and poetry. He described himself as "inclined toward brevity and intensity" and "hooked on writing short stories". One stated reason for his brevity was "that the story [or poem] can be written and read in one sitting." This was not simply a preference but, particularly at the beginning of his career, a practical consideration as he juggled writing with work. His subject matter was often focused on blue-collar experience, and was clearly reflective of his own life. In one of his jobs in the mid-1960s Carver took a position as a night custodian in a hospital in Sacramento, CA. He did all of the janitorial work in the first hour and then wrote through the rest of his shift.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,194 reviews9,456 followers
May 5, 2012
Just another genius collection of laconic grimly funny or just grim short stories by Carver, like his other four. My favourites :

“Feathers”. A guy and his wife are invited for dinner at a workmate’s house. Bud and Olla have a peacock and a really ugly baby. (“Even calling it ugly does it credit.”)

“Preservation”. A guy loses his job and his life disintegrates. The fridge breaks down. His wife gets ready to go to an auction to buy a new one. That's all, folks.

“A Small Good Thing”. A boy is hit by a car and later dies. The bereaved parents receive calls from the baker who’s expecting them to collect the birthday cake he’s made for their son. They get all outraged and storm down to see this guy. But it turns into something else.

“Careful”. A guy has a visit from his estranged wife Inez. His ear is blocked by wax and she helps him. That's also all.

“Fever”. A college teacher’s wife leaves him. He has major problems finding someone to look after his two kids while he’s at work. The day does not go well.

Carver fans should not miss the Robert Altman movie "Short Cuts" which is a mashup of six or seven Carver stories. Purists may shudder at the thought but it's actually a great piece of work and weaves the stories into something else. Tom Waits is in it!
Profile Image for Ilenia Zodiaco.
260 reviews13.3k followers
November 19, 2014
C'è in questa raccolta qualcosa che sfugge a qualsiasi definizione. Qualcosa che vi vestirà di incertezza, che vi farà sentire storpi e del tutto impreparati alla vita, dei "principianti". Eppure, meno soli. In un cerchio di tristezze, al centro un fuoco.
Profile Image for مجیدی‌ام.
213 reviews108 followers
February 18, 2021
اگر کسی شناسنامه‌ی کتاب رو برمی‌داشت و من بدون اطلاع از اسم نویسنده، کتاب رو می‌خوندم، حدس می‌زدم که از بوکفسکی باشه!
داستان‌هایی مدرن، شخصیت‌هایی خنثی و بعضا شکست خورده، زندگی‌هایی در آستانه فروپاشی، و فضاهایی خاکستری...

اگر بخوام شفاف سازی کنم، یا مثالی زده باشم، میرم سراغ موراکامی. چون اکثر داستان های کوتاهش رو خوندم.
موراکامی داستان کوتاه زیاد داره، اکثر داستان‌هاش هم خاکستری هستن، ولی با این تفاوت که در داستان‌های موراکامی همیشه کورسویی از امید هست! همیشه یک روشنایی توی داستان‌ها یا هست یا بوجود میاد! بطوری که آخر داستان‌ها معمولا یک لبخند روی لب خواننده یا یک حس خوب و گرم توی دلش نقش می‌بنده، ولی داستان‌های این کتاب، انقدر خاکستری هستن که گاهی پایان یک داستان، تلخ‌ترین و تاریک‌ترین قسمت اون داستانه!

کتاب ترجمه‌ی خوبی داره، کیفیت چاپ عالی‌ای داره و خیلی خوش‌خوانه، اما دستخوش سانسور شده. که البته حدس زدن قسمت‌های سانسور شده کار سختی نیست!
توصیه می کنم بخونید، اگر داستان کوتاه مدرن دوست دارید حتما بخونید.
Profile Image for Mevsim Yenice.
Author 4 books973 followers
May 14, 2019

Carver öyle usta bir öykücü ki, anlatma biçimini, hakkında konuştuğu şeye dönüştürmeyi başarıyor. Hem de hiç fark ettirmeden yapıyor bunu. Bir manada form, içerikten ayırt edilmez hale geliyor. Kitaba adını veren Katedral adındaki öykü insanı kıskandıracak cinsten. Tüyler, Katedral ve Küçük İyi Bir şey benim favorilerim oldu.

Kitap boyunca alttan alta nedense hep 'çocuk sahibi olan çiftlerin evliliğinin ve aralarındaki aşkın bittiğini' vermiş Carver. Bir niyeti olsa gerek ya da meselesi :)

Gün icinde dünyadan kopmak, bulunduğunuz atmosferden uzaklaşmak istiyorsanız, her bir cümlenin hatta kelimenin, hesaplanarak yerli yerine konduğu bu harika öyküleri okumanızı şiddetle tavsiye ediyorum.

Profile Image for Carmine.
591 reviews55 followers
January 16, 2020
Vite di chi deve ripartire

"Cosa gli diresti, adesso?" "Gli direi che i sogni, be', sono le cose da cui ci si risveglia. Ecco cosa direi. Ma nessuno me lo chiederà più, oramai."

"Per parecchio tempo io e mia moglie ci amavamo più di ogni altra cosa e più di chiunque al mondo. Compresi i bambini. Pensavamo, anzi, eravamo convinti che saremmo invecchiati insieme. Questa era la cosa più triste di tutte: qualsiasi cosa avrebbero fatto d'ora in poi, l'avrebbero fatta ciascuno per conto suo."

Istantanee di vita osservate dietro un vetro.
Carver narra il quotidiano attraverso un linguaggio semplice e curato, capace di accarezzare come velluto e corrodere quanto una dose di acido cloridrico ingerito a piene sorsate.
L'essenza della vita si svela in ogni piccolo gesto, in ogni sua più sottile sfaccettatura; ogni personaggio - che abbia subito la tragedia o in attesa dell'inesorabile - è tratteggiato con un'onestà commovente.
Non c'è vergogna nel fallire; non c'è vergogna nel sentirsi insoddisfatti e incapaci di dare concretezza ai propri sogni: Carver restituisce dignità a tutti noi, ricordandoci che, in quanto umani, siamo fallibili e lontani dalla perfezione.
E, in quanto umani, possiamo essere capaci, nel nostro piccolo, di cambiare le vite degli altri con semplici gesti.

Penne 4★
La casa di Chef 4.5★
Conservazione 4★
Lo scompartimento 4★
Una piccola, buona cosa 5★
Vitamine 3.5★
Stare Attenti 4★
Da dove sto chiamando 4★
Il treno per John Cheever 4★
Febbre 5★
La briglia 4.5★
Cattedrale 5★
Profile Image for Emilio Gonzalez.
169 reviews62 followers
January 9, 2021
Tremenda decepción me llevé con este libro que en general tiene tan buenas críticas que me había generado grandes expectativas, pero gustos son gustos... y a mi me resultó muy poco interesante.
Los cuentos son principalmente fotografías de la vida cotidiana de cualquier norteamericano de clase media con sus miserias incluidas, pero me parecieron muy básicos, carentes de profundidad, no encontré en Carver esa capacidad que tanto admiro en los grandes cuentistas para trabajar con sutileza esa segunda capa o historia que suele esconderse tras la historia principal, aquí la historia no contada es demasiado básica y elemental para mi gusto; y por otro lado, la monotonía en los temas de estos doce cuentos es tal que aburre.
Fiebre y Desde donde llamo me parecieron los cuentos mejor trabajados y mas logrados.

Supongo que fue la primera y última lectura de Carver, cuyo estilo, que destaca por su sencillez, no me gustó para nada, a su sencillez le faltó la chispa que me generara algo.

En síntesis es un libro que se lee rapidísimo por su sencillez, pero a mi ni me gustó la trama de las historias ni me sedujo el estilo narrativo, me pareció un libro insulso.
Profile Image for Dustin.
Author 1 book14 followers
November 29, 2007
This book changed my life, sent me on my way to becoming a writer, and quite literally was the reason my girlfriend and I got together. Yeah. Soul mates. Me and Carver.
Profile Image for Carlo Mascellani.
Author 17 books260 followers
October 25, 2021
A scrittori come Carver non occorre certo andare alla ricerca di trame astruse per costruire un racconto, esprimere un punto di vista, regalare un'emozione, suscitare una riflessione inattesa. La vita, la stessa che si spiega innanzi agli occhi di tutti noi - e ai suoi -, racchiude in sé quanto di meglio si potrebbe concepire in ambito narrativo. È sufficiente coglierne qualche scena e riprodurla senza fronzoli, senza troppe costruzioni. Sarà lei a parlare al lettore e a toccarne le giuste corde.
Profile Image for Cody.
506 reviews182 followers
December 14, 2022
For reasons that become increasingly clear to me as I age, Raymond Carver will always be my short story God. Having just put down Cathedral, I think I can put my finger on it a bit better than usual. So grab a beer, put your feet up—here’s the ashtray. I’m gonna do a little bit of testifying.

As much as I’d like to be Rocketman or Ishmael, the fact of the matter is that I’m nothing more or less than a character in a Carver story. I’m a person—unexceptional by almost every measure, good and bad—just trying to make it through today to even begin worrying about tomorrow. I come from the working class; my childhood’s lasting snapshots are populated by pop-top Coors and Camel non-filters, horseshoe pits and sunwrecked lawn chairs. Alcohol featured prominently into my cosmology early on, and my behaviors came to resemble the generation that preceded me. Hey, child is the father of man and all that.

But this isn’t just my life story; it’s the life story of almost everyone I know. And for we unsupervised children of suburban violence and distaff, Carver is our Poet Laureate and Patron Saint. He understood that, more often than not, life does not hinge around a single declarative moment—it is a series of minor tragedies that we swallow and retain, eventually holding enough to mold ourselves into a vaguely human shape. It is that not-fatal decision to always have one more nightcap; to blow off a chunk of a fingertip with a cobbling of fireworks; to maintain that there is something holy about drinking in parks with your friends as a form of communion.

In other words, Raymond Carver was the chronicler of the quintessence of my parents' generation and my own in 20th-century America: people fucking up unspectacularly in-between the chain link fences of our own private Shangri-La’s. You won’t suffer another like us.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,062 followers
October 24, 2021
Cathedral is a highly regarded short story by the American writer and poet, Raymond Carver. It was first published in 1983. Here is the opening:

“This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night. His wife had died. So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut … She hadn’t seen him since she worked for him one summer in Seattle ten years ago. But she and the blind man had kept in touch. They made tapes and mailed them back and forth. I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing eye dogs. Blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.”

Instantly we form an opinion of the narrator as a narrow-minded man, prejudiced through genuine ignorance. We also see another form of prejudice, when his wife tells the narrator that Robert and his wife, Beulah, were inseparable:

“She’d told me a little about the blind man’s wife. Her name was Beulah. Beulah! That’s a name for a coloured woman.
‘Was his wife a negro?’ I asked.”

The narrator seems to be uneasy with this information, and he further denigrates the blind man in his mind, immediately assuming that he is superior to Robert in all ways, by thinking of how dreadful it must have been for Beulah not to have been seen by the man she loved:

“And then I found myself thinking what a pitiful life this woman must have led. Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eyes of her loved one. A woman who could go on day after day and never receive the smallest compliment from her beloved. A woman whose husband could never read the expression on her face, be it misery or something better … her last thought maybe this: that he never even knew what she looked like, and she on an express to the grave … Pathetic.”

We have further internal condemnation when Robert arrives:

“This blind man, feature this, he was wearing a full beard! A beard on a blind man! Too much, I say.”

Through his narrator, Raymond Carver describes the prejudices many sighted people have, if they do not come across blindness very often. So often I have seen my blind friends shunned through embarrassment, as some sighted people have an inability to look at a blind person. I have witnessed both astonishment and incomprehension, as well as embarrassment by some sighted people watching my friends eat. Perhaps most hurtful of all is an assumption that blind people will not care about the way they look. These are correct, and well observed common faults of the sighted, and all evidenced in this story.

Perhaps the most accurate detail was the idea that the narrator’s wife and Robert became close through the exchange of cassette tapes. I am partially sighted myself, and spent years tapesponding (the correct term) before computers were so accessible. It was easy, frequent, and international, because most postal systems sent the cassettes free of charge. You certainly do get to know people very well indeed when you talk nonstop for three quarters of an hour or more. Plenty of marriages would not cope with such dedicated conversation, and in Cathedral we doubt whether the narrator could sustain this with his wife. Now of course, this dates the story, as compact cassette tapes are a rarity, and “old technology”. The story cannot be faulted, however, for being of its time. As I say, this was an authentic part.

But other areas made me wince, such as the reference to “feeling people’s faces”. This is something which sighted people seem to conjure up, in the same spirit as “knowing” that blind people have exceptional hearing, to make up for their lack of vision. What? Like dogs? No. It is just an urban myth. To touch another person in that way assumes an intimacy, and such intimacy would be exactly the same whether you are blind or sighted. Why portray blind people as having inferior social skills? Yet we are given to understand that Robert asked the narrator’s wife if he could feel her face, when she had said goodbye all those years ago, and it was such a pivotal moment in her life, that she started to write poetry after it. Oh my!

The story reveals all the aspects and problems; the connections and detachments between the three characters. There is a strong bond between the narrator’s wife and Robert, and we see that the narrator appears to long for a similar connection with his wife. He sits listening to his wife talk to Robert, and hopes to hear his name being mentioned, but it never is. He remains on the outside, isolated from their conversation.

We know that Robert has a television of his own. Does this surprise you? The narrator is not sure what to make of this. Neither does he have a reaction when Robert says he can tell the difference between a black and white one and a colour one. Perhaps these would be common feelings for sighted people who know no visually impaired people, or perhaps it further demonstrates Robert’s confusion. Here in the UK, just the signal with no picture is free for all blind people. No license fee needs to be paid, but this is only suitable for those blind people who live alone or with other blind people. It was probable that Robert would like to have a colour television, because his wife had been sighted. Plus, since we assume colour televisions were relatively new for these characters, the colour one was probably better sound quality.

For me, despite the critical accolades at the time, the story is essentially flawed. I can see what the author was trying to do, and the point he was making, but to me, Robert was just used as a tool to make that point, rather than coming over as an individual in his own right, and I didn’t like that. Yes, we see that the narrator is an awful person, full of prejudice. We grow to see that it is through ignorance, and that this will be a journey of discovery for him. He has his sudden inexplicable insight: the “lightbulb” moment at the end, and realises that he is just as incapacitated by his inability to describe things in words as the blind man is through his lack of sight.

But this point would have been much better made, if something was chosen where blind people do regularly excel. For instance, one blind friend of mine has a phenomenal memory. He uses a dictaphone recorder-type device to make notes, but frequently does not refer to it. He has just trained himself to excel at that out of necessity. Sighted people get lazy, and don’t remember things because they don’t have to. Another area where blind people often have the advantage is in technology. Someone blind from birth is likely to have far better computer skills that the average sighted person.

There is a spark of hope in that ending - a spark, that is, for the narrator. It is he who learns how to imagine, and to feel. But think about this for a minute. What have sighted people learned about being blind? That the function of blind people is to facilitate something for the sighted? Not cool. For me this reveals an assumption verging on an inner prejudice on the part of the author. So I’m sorry if you find my views extreme. I know that Raymond Carver was making a point about intolerance and ignorance of different sorts - even to the reaction to the name “Beulah”. But I didn’t like that he sacrificed realism, just using a blind person to provide a learning point for the narrator. We are bludgeoned over the head with the narrator’s prejudices; so much so that his way of referring to Robert as “the blind man” left us thinking that this was the main point about him, ie., his function was to facilitate a learning experience in a sighted person, and not to be treated as an individual himself.

But perhaps you disagree.

It is not a bad story in my view, merely rather one which stops short of investigating the deeper issues here, perhaps because the author did not consider them. Hence, two stars.
Profile Image for Argos.
1,002 reviews294 followers
September 14, 2021
Çok etkileyici ve bir o kadar da gerçekçi yeni bir öykücüyü Pınar Kumandaş sayesinde tanıdım. Onbir güzel öykü içinde “Küçük, İyi Şeyler” çok etkiledi beni. Yaşıyormuş gibi yazmış Raymond Carver. İçtenlikli ve abartısız. Bazı öykülerin sonunu getirmemiş, ucunu açık bırakmış, okuyucunun hayal dünyasına güvenmiş.

Günlük yaşamlardan örnekler, ama tüm hikayelerde kahramanlar “looser”lar. Zor hayatları içinde nefes almaya çalışanlar. Yazar çok genç yaşta, 50 yaşında ölmüş, bunu öğrenince kitap olduğundan da hüzün verici geldi. Bir not: eğer depressif ruh halinde ya da kaygılı dönemlerinizde iseniz okumayı öteleyin. Ben keşke daha dingin bir zamanda okusaydım, fena sarstı beni. Çok beğendim bu öykü kitabını ve öneririm.
Profile Image for Cosimo.
416 reviews
January 26, 2016
Simboli inesauribili

“E' solo che, sapete, quando si scrivono racconti, i nostri peggiori nemici siamo solo noi stessi, capite? O siamo lì che mettiamo cose di cui non c'è davvero bisogno, di cui il lettore può fare benissimo a meno – possiamo infatti presumere che il lettore riempia i nostri vuoti da solo – oppure nascondiamo quel che conta sul serio. Insomma, secondo me qui c'è già tutto”. Da Il mestiere di scrivere

Ti racconta cose possibili e reali, Raymond Carver. La sua voce è così intensa, autentica e specifica che le fa apparire come anomalie o epifanie o compimenti inevitabili. In questi racconti si possono ammirare l'eccellenza compositiva e la meraviglia stilistica dell'autore dell'Oregon, che dipinge un'anonima quotidianità di azioni e pensieri raccolta e rivelata nell'universalità e nella singolarità. Completezza di sguardo e profondità di dialogo perlustrano ambiguità e segreti dell'esperienza umana, ne suggeriscono forme inedite e sorprendenti, dietro a domande e risposte che sembrano scrutare sullo sfondo, da presenze silenziose. Carver scrive una mappa dell'essere umano per conoscere il dolore e cerca un modo di raccontare cosa farsene: perturbazioni emotive, verità parallele, catastrofi dimenticate, moralità nascoste, volontà sospese; desideri latenti, insicurezze ignote, contrasti intimi, smarrimenti essenziali. Dentro tracce, sintomi, ombre, echi e testimonianze della vita nella necessaria sopravvivenza, nell'imprendibile durata e nella progressiva marginalità, lo scrittore di Clatskanie colloca uno spazio esclusivo e implicito dove incontrare noi stessi e ritrovare l'unicità del carattere e la definizione di un senso condiviso, riconoscendo e scoprendo negli altri le molteplici parti interiori rimosse, negate e provvisoriamente perdute. Con Carver c'è un modo semplice e decisivo per uscire dal nulla e sentirsi finalmente vivi. Ovunque e in altro luogo.
Profile Image for Steve.
5 reviews7 followers
July 28, 2007
After years of being told that Raymond Carver was the epitome of quality short story writing I finally read one of his books. I'm all in favour of sparse, concise prose that describe the minutiae of everyday life if it offers reveals the extraordinary within the ordinary. With many of the stories in "Cathedral" I kept thinking, "And...?" I did not feel that Carver's subtle observations amounted to any great insight. The only story that lingers in my mind is "A Small, Good Thing" in which a couple whose child is killed in a hit and run incident are harassed by the baker they hired to make the boy's birthday cake they obviously never picked up. It is a uneasy and moving tale of grief and obsessive indignation.

Maybe "Cathedral" isn't the best of Carver's writing, maybe I should persevere with his other work, but I can't help that I lost my invite to the Raymond Carver Adulation Society.
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