Gisteren was ik voor het eerst bij een Engelstalige leesclub. Iedereen had een keuze uit de verhalen van Raymond Carver gelezen, waaronder het overbekende ‘Cathedral’. Het gesprek over het werk en over de schrijver was een oefening in nederigheid voor iemand die, zoals ik, is opgevoed met het idee dat het kunstwerk een zekere mate van autonomie bezit; de persoon van de kunstenaar is niet onbelangrijk, maar het oordeel erover staat de perceptie van het werk niet in de weg. Welnu. Ergens is er door sommige mensen een bocht genomen en die bocht heb ik gemist. De eindconclusie van bijna iedereen die ik gisteren sprak, was dat Carver een lul was en is en dat zijn werk daarom niet kan deugen. Het is cheesy. Daar zat ik, met mijn opvattingen over stijl, verhaal, literaire verbeelding, the works. Toen Carver voldoende behandeld was, werden Woody Allen en Roman Polanski nog even door de modder gehaald. Andere voorbeelden, ik weet het; ondertussen probeer ik Carver te lezen zonder aan een gewelddadige, altijd dronken, zijn gezin ontwrichtende lulhannes te denken. Een van de deelnemers zei dat Carver iemand was van de 20e eeuw, iemand die we niet meer kunnen begrijpen.
The blind man got down from the sofa and sat next to me on the carpet. He ran his fingers over the paper. He went up and down the sides of the paper. The edges, even the edges. He fingered the corners.
“All right,” he said. “All right, let’s do her.”
He found my hand, the hand with the pen. He closed his hand over my hand. “Go ahead, bub, draw,” he said. “Draw. You’ll see. I’ll follow along with you. It’ll be okay. Just begin now like I’m telling you. You’ll see. Draw,” the blind man said.
So I began. First I drew a box that looked like a house. It could have been the house I lived in. Then I put a roof on it. At either end of the roof, I drew
“Swell,” he said. “Terrific. You’re doing fine,” he said. “Never thought anything like this could happen in your lifetime, did you, bub? Well, it’s a strange life, we all know that. Go on now. Keep it up.”
I put in windows with arches. I drew flying buttresses. I hung great doors. I couldn’t stop. The TV station went off the air. I put down the pen and closed
and opened my fingers. The blind man felt around over the paper. He moved the tips of his fingers over the paper, all over what I had drawn, and he nodded.
“Doing fine,” the blind man said.
I took up the pen again, and he found my hand. I kept at it. I’m no artist. But I kept drawing just the same.
My wife opened up her eyes and gazed at us. She sat up on the sofa, her robe hanging open. She said, “What are you doing? Tell me, I want to know.”
I didn’t answer her.
The blind man said, “We’re drawing a cathedral. Me and him are working on it. Press hard,” he said to me. “That’s right. That’s good,” he said. “Sure. You got it, bub. I can tell. You didn’t think you could. But you can, can’t you? You’re cooking with gas now. You know what I’m saying? We’re going to really have us something here in a minute. How’s the old arm?” he said. “Put some people in there now. What’s a cathedral without people?”
My wife said, “What’s going on? Robert, what are you doing? What’s going on?”
“It’s all right,” he said to her. “Close your eyes now,” the blind man said to me.
I did it. I closed them just like he said.
“Are they closed?” he said. “Don’t fudge.”
“They’re closed,” I said.
“Keep them that way,” he said. He said, “Don’t stop now. Draw.”
So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now.
Then he said, “I think that’s it. I think you got it,” he said. “Take a look. What do you think?”
But I had my eyes closed. I thought I’d keep them that way for a little longer. I thought it was something I ought to do. “Well?” he said. “Are you looking?”
My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel
like I was inside anything.
“It’s really something,” I said.