“Cathedral” is one of those short stories that often show up on those “must” lists, as in “classics you must read.”
A miserable, misanthropic, middle-class man’s wife used to be a caretaker for a blind man. Said blind man is coming over to visit. They eat, drink, smoke weed, and watch TV. Eventually, Mr. Misanthrope draws a cathedral with his eyes closed and has a transformative experience.
And that’s it.
Is there a hidden meaning there? Since he was drawing a cathedral, am I to draw some sort of theological inference? Is there symbolism?
Maybe not. Maybe it’s meant to just be what it is. As a strong entry in the dirty realism genre, it’s probably meant to be a moment in time, a regular life that takes a turn, triggered by a seemingly insignificant event.
It’s a story that sticks in the mind, written by a deeply complicated man.
Here are some links:
+ Bill Buford’s editorial in Granta magazine, introducing dirty realism
+ Read “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver, free
+ Listen to “Cathedral,” read by Michael DuBon
+ Glenn Sumi’s excellent review
+ Gordon Lish’s incendiary interview with The Guardian
+ My rundown of The New Me by Halle Butler (mentioned in the video)
+ Stephen King on Raymond Carver, just because I thought this was an interesting article