The last book by Raymond Carver, Cathedral, is a collection of twelve short stories. The last one, which named the collection, was included in Best American Short Stories.
Carver described himself as “inclined toward brevity and intensity” and this is what immediately captivates the reader. Each story recalls the daily life of average people in their normal routines, as an unknown, impending doom casts an encroaching shadow. Sometimes this happens at the beginning, sometimes only at the end. In some stories, the moment of crisis is more vivid (A Small Good Little Thing, The House of Chef), while in others it is only suggested. Narrated in the first person, the real protagonists of every story are the big and small struggles that we all encounter in our relationships. Very precise in creating the scenes, Carver has a unique way of describing characters, giving priority to their psychology without losing concreteness. The twists in the plot are countless.
Carver presents bare facts, leaving space for the reader to complete each story with hope or mistrust, with compassion or despair. Thanks to the immediacy and simplicity of the prose, Carver makes the reader feel and measure himself, inviting him to witness without judgment. Carver has been defined as a minimalist, and his style fell under the umbrella of dirty realism, which connected him with a group of writers in the 1970s and 1980s that included Richard Ford and Tobias Wolff with both of whom Carver was closely acquainted. He refused, though, to be considered part of any category.