A Week With Raymond Carver’s Cathedral

Today marks the start of my third installment of the “A Week With…” series where I invite some of my favorite friends and writers to comment on a specific short story and then share their insights with you.

Flying buttresses galore: How do you describe a cathedral to a blind man? This week, the blog will focus on Raymond Carver's classic story, Cathedral.

Flying buttresses galore: How do you describe a cathedral to a blind man? This week, the blog will focus on Raymond Carver’s classic story, Cathedral.

This week we will focus on Raymond Carver’s classic story, Cathedral.

Whenever I share this story with writing students, I am amused by the very predictable, but varied responses I get. This is a tough story because the first person narrator is not really a likable fellow, in many ways, and he reminds us that we, too, aren’t always so likable. For some people, that reminder triggers a compassionate response: a sort of “there but for the grace of God go I” recognition. For others, that prospect of having an unlikable trait triggers a fists-up, fighting response. “Can you believe what a @$%&#! that guy is?”

And then, there is the ending of the story. Carver presents us with a moment of epiphany, but it is so well crafted that it is easy to overlook the heavy-handedness of the transformation.

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.

There is an online version of the story posted here (though I cannot vouch for the completeness or error-free nature of that copy) or you can purchase Carver’s Collected Stories if you wish.

Over the next four days, I’ll host comments and responses about Cathedral from writers Clifford Garstang, Sara McDaniel, Heidi Moore, and Brad Windhauser. I hope you enjoy it.

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If you missed any of the first two “A Week With…” posts, here is a recap:

In November, I started this series of focused blog posts with a discussion of Flannery O’Connor’s story, A Good Man is Hard to Find.

In December, we focused on You Were Perfectly Fine, by Dorothy Parker.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed these wonderful guest posts. Let me know. I’m planning to do more in the future, but knowing they are of value to you, dear reader, would be a wonderful incentive.

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 photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

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