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Cathedral by Raymond Carver

July 8, 2012

I’ve never really understood short stories. I like them sometimes, but unlike with novels, nonfiction, movies, or music, I have no capacity to determine why I find a short story good, or to talk about it in a coherent way.

Cathedral is amazing. Each story sets up a very specific world, with characters that are distinct individuals that still manage to be somehow slightly mysterious – just like real people.

The plots of the stories in Cathedral are fairly simple. “Feathers” is the story of a couple’s dinner visit to a coworker’s house, and the impact is not clear until the end – and even at the end, the reason why it had the impact it did is fairly inscrutable, but in a realistic and compelling way. “The Bridle” is the story of a family moving to a small town, told from the perspective of their landlady, who befriends them despite her aloof, judgmental attitude. The title story is about a man bonding with his wife’s blind friend by drawing a cathedral with him.

Much like Flannery O’Connor, Carver’s stories are about how small events and decisions cause great change.  I can’t explain to you exactly how or why Cathedral is so good, but it really is.


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