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Cathedral Paperback – June 18, 1989

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Editorial Reviews Review

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.


Cathedral contains a number of similar stories, very skillful within their narrow limits, written with a dry intensity, and moving, at their climaxes, from the commonplace to the unnerving. -- The New York Times Book Review, Irving Howe

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (June 18, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723691
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, in 1938. His father was a saw-mill worker and his mother was a waitress and clerk. He married early and for years writing had to come second to earning a living for his young family. Despite, small-press publication, it was not until Will You Please Be Quiet Please? appeared in 1976 that his work began to reach a wider audience. This was the year in which he gave up alcohol, which had contributed to the collapse of his marriage. In 1977 he met the writer Tess Gallagher, with whom he shared the last eleven years of his life. During this prolific period he wrote three collections of stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Cathedral and Elephant. Fires, a collection of essays, poems and stories, appeared in 1985, followed by three further collections of poetry. In 1988 he completed the poetry collection A New Path to the Waterfall.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on October 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
It is a cruel, un-poetic injustice, that Raymond Carver's life was tragically cut short just when his stories began to take on glimmers of hope that were nowhere to be seen in his earlier collections.
When this book first came out, I was eager to read new stories from my favorite "minimalist" (isn't there a better word these days than "minimalist"?) writer. Instead, I was reading stories about compassion, good-natured friendships, and even salvation and forgiveness. Sure there were still the choppy sentences, quick observations, and weighty silences. But it was different. Many of the stories, not all, ended with an unusual (for Carver) sense of closure, even understanding. As so many reviewers have noted, the title story is just glorious. The narrator, a sarcastic and distant husband, finds human contact in the strangest circumstance. And when he does, he simply states, "It was like nothing else in my life up to now." Simple, but it leaves a serious lump in my throat each time I read it.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By M. Perea on August 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Unlike so many writers who came before him, Carver cuts to the bone--with a sharp, jagged knife. Sometimes what you find there isn't what you were looking for: the epiphanies aren't astounding; you're not going to scream anything (especially not Eureka!). No, Carver will, though, leave you nodding, talking to yourself ("It's just like that, isn't it?"), as you fill your glass and wonder why you were fooled by the gloss and shimmer of modern living. "A Small, Good Thing," "Feathers," "Cathedral"--these are contemporary masterpieces. You know they are because when you're done reading them you can't tell whether you've been cheated or rewarded beyond your investment--it's the latter, it's the latter! What do you give to a short story? An hour, maybe? Usually, you give less. What do you hope to take with you? A smile? A smirk? Certainly, no answers? Ah! But, guess what? Carver answers questions nobody who is well paid and well fed and not dying for a drink wouldn't ever think of asking. Not that you have to be desperate to get it. But if you are (in your own secret, silent way), then read these stories. The flowers won't be any brighter, the sky any clearer, when you're done. But you'll see yourself a bit more clearly (more honestly, I almost want to say, but how many of us do that?) and maybe understand those people you've never understood, who don't waste too much time trying to amuse themselves.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on August 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
There are a lot of people out there who want to tell you what to think about Raymond Carver. Shut the door on them, read CATHEDRAL and make up your own mind. This is a strong collection of stories; I think it bears comparison to Joyce's DUBLINERS. Each story is separate from another, but together they build a cohesive vision of the dusky corners of life in the later half of the 20th century. Sure his fiction is littered with alcoholics, divorces, and failure, but he finds the sympathetic quality that keeps you reading. In terms of structure, he creates a setting and exposition according to conventional rules of story construction, then subverts the climax into the protagonist's interior, so that the action is really about an invisible turning point in a life, when something goes out of it or lanes are switched, when self knowledge is made or lost. You would think that would mean so many characters stepping up to the plate and getting hit with the same ball, but each story is unique. The collection has variety and texture; it has heart without sentimentality. The prose is clean and undecorative, but never sterile. Carver gets it right; he should not be blamed for the plethora of boring contemporary literary fiction that has tried to ape him ever since he took the world's notice.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading a review saying that Carver was dull and overrated and that the reviewer felt sorry for students who were force-fed his work. Having just graduated from high school, I am forced to explain that any teacher brave enough to try and teach such a deep and incredible writer should be commended. This is the kind of writing that students need to see, realistic and gripping. Carver writes extraordinary stories about ordinary people. I am eternally in debt to the uncle who pointed me toward Carver's work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ChiefSanch on August 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is what we think about when we think about great writing. How can one person know so much about ourselves and everyone? Carver has been in all of our heads and has put us all down on paper, exposing us for who we are and what we really think about. Cathedral is the highlight of this collection. The images that are conjured up when a blind man help a man with perfect sight learn how to draw a cathedral he sees on televison is the most moving set of words I have ever read. These stories make you wonder what you are really like and then you realize that he's right, this is what you're like. A coaxing baker torments a family by hounding them about a cake they haven't picked up for their dead sons birthday. They confront him and he ends up being the grounding force for these grieving parents, the voice of reason and sensibility that brings them back to normal. These stories are wonderfully simple and simply perfect.
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