Today I re-read “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. I’ll have the opportunity to dissect and discuss this short story at my writing class tomorrow, and I’m itching to hear what my fellow writers have to say about this piece of work. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed the story when I first came across it a few years back.
Today, I had an even better experience. Why was reading this classic short story so much more satisfying this time around? Here is what I think:
Studying the craft of writing has given me x-ray vision.
Well, not quite, but I’m learning to see beyond the actual words of these stories and appreciate the bones and organs hard at work beneath the surface. “Cathedral” is about a man who has his eyes opened, ironically, by a blind man. Today I was swept away watching the main character evolve from his close-mindedness, just as I was the first time, but this morning I was able to stop and acknowledge all of the writerly magic Raymond Carver used to make this story so appealing. His down home voice, the spare imagery, his use of long/short sentences in just the right place, the completely uncomfortable first few hours these characters share, and more–all purposely placed to evoke an emotional response from the readers. And did it ever. Brilliant.
I’m so glad I can finally see it.