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Cathedral by Raymond Carver

Cathedral (original 1983; edition 1989)

by Raymond Carver

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,352824,043 (4.17)50
Authors:Raymond Carver
Info:Vintage (1989), Paperback, 240 pages
Collections:listsofbests to get
Tags:unowned, listsofbests, ew new classics 83-08

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Cathedral by Raymond Carver (1983)


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English (75)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
Carver's voice is unmistakable, mesmerizing, and real. I was drawn into every story through the power of this voice, even the stories that didn't touch me. But many of these did touch me. My particular favorites are "Feathers," "A Small, Good Thing," "The Train," and "Cathedral." At times the overbearing depression of the stories weighed on me, as if their repetitiveness--too much drinking, recently broken marriages--made each one more depressing than the last. Personally I most enjoyed the ones with glimpses of hope at the end; not idealistic turnarounds, just the potential for hope: "A Small, Good Thing" and "Cathedral" being perfect examples. Regardless of my personal reaction, Carver has one of the most distinct and graspable American voices of the past century. ( )
  petermoccia | Mar 20, 2019 |
¿3.7? Una cosa así.

Para lo que todo el mundo dice de Carver (que es uno de los más grandes cuentistas de todos los tiempos), varios de estos cuentos me dejaron frío frío. Si se trata de retratar impecablemente lo cotidiano en un cuento (y si se trata de norteamericanos), me sigue gustando más lo poco que he leído de Cheever, de Munro y de Berlin. Sin embargo, un par de cuentos de esta antología sí me hicieron sentir que estaba frente a uno de los grandes, en especial "A Small, Good Thing", "Careful", "Fever" y "Cathedral". Si hubiera leído sólo estos cuatro cuentos, Carver sería de mis favoritos: todos tienen ese momento extraordinario de revelación. Pero bueno, así son las antologías. ( )
  LeoOrozco | Feb 26, 2019 |
OK, so the craft and the talent behind these stories is undoubted, but there was very little about them to love.

They were mostly about endings, and people keeping on anyway. Sometimes they had a shred of hope like in the title story or "Where I'm Calling From", but mostly it was about keeping your head down and just accepting the dull current of life.

This is the first time in a long time that I've felt too young to have read something. I can get a bit down and moody on occasion, but the next time I feel miserable I should check this out again. I mean, wow. What unhappy people and so real too.

I'm caught between "Bridle" or "A Small, Good Thing" as my favorite stories (the latter kept trying to be overshadowed by what I remembered from the movie 'Short Cuts', but the original prevailed). They were sad and honest and completely believable. I just felt like I needed a pack of cigarettes, some scotch and water and a failing marriage by the time I was finished. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |

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 ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
“In those olden days, when they built cathedrals, men wanted to be close to God”

This collection of twelve stories, might be my favorite of Carver's work. He writes very well about ordinary lives but favors the messiness of life. Alcohol abuse, infidelities and heartache. The opening story, "Feathers" prominently features a peacock. A homage to O' Connor, perhaps? And the title story, which wraps up the collection, is a stunning look at blindness and religion. A knockout. ( )
  msf59 | Jun 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
The Cathedral is a story of how a man, known as the narrator, overcomes his predisposition towards a culture that is unknown to him. From the beginning, the narrator does not like Robert, and he really has no reason for it. He has his stereotypes that he sticks to in the beginning, until Robert starts to prove many of them false. It is apparent that the narrator is very big on appearance, and this is shown through his fascination that a blind man had a beard. Later in the story, the narrator also points out that Robert did not wear sunglasses or use a cane. The narrator thought about how pitiful Roberts wife was, and how awful their relationship must have been because she would never receive a compliment based on her looks by her loved one. This shows what type of a husband he is, and what he values in his marriage. The narrator doesn't seem to have many friends, and his wife even points this out, and he seems to drink and smoke a lot. Although he can see, in comparison, he seems like the blind one. Although Robert is physically blind, he is a real jack of trades. He hasn't let his blindness get in the way of his happiness and it just goes to show that you can be blind, and still truly see. The narrator begins to understand this at the end of the story when he draws the cathedral with Robert and begins to bridge the gap between himself and true understanding.
added by smyth104 | editSchool

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Raymond Carverprimary authorall editionscalculated
Duranti, RiccardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Tess Gallagher
For Tess Gallagher and in memory of John Gardner
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This friend of mine from work, Bud, he asked Fran and me to supper.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Contains: Feathers -- Chef's house -- Preservation -- The compartment -- A small, good thing -- Vitamins -- Careful -- Where I'm calling from -- The train -- Fever -- The bridle -- Cathedral.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679723692, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:12 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Collection of short stories in which 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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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