I've never really enjoyed short stories and find something unsatisfactory about them. Even when penned by my favourite authors, they seem to lack something, and I've usually finished such collections and thought: "well, so what?". So it was that I approached the much-praised work of Raymond Carver with some sense of trepidation and cynicsm - could his stories be that good? Would the reviewers have it right about the late writer's talents?
"Cathedral" - a collection of 12 stories by Carver, has made me re-think the merits of short stories. Several here are minature masterpieces, one or two don't work for me, and one or two absolutely had me rivetted and thinking about them long after I'd finished reading. It's a combination of ingredients that work here: Carver's pared-down-to-the bone style, the timeless quality of the stories, the dilemmas and sense of the moment being preserved. But overall, I think it's Carver's ability to tell a story that could be taking place at any point in time that gives them such power. They just don't seem to date, and he's cleverly avoided layering the stories with too much detail about time and place, so they don't age.
But they do make you think. At just over 200 pages, the stories don't take long to get through, but they say so much more than other, longer books I've read. If, like me, you aren't that convinced that short stories make good reading, I urge you to give this collection a try. A revelation, and a lesson too in how to write little, but say a lot.