The “dirty realism” school of writing became popular in the 1980s thanks to a group of writers who began writing about middle-class characters and the disappointments, heartbreaks, and harsh realities of their ordinary lives. Granta, a highly regarded literary journal, coined the label dirty realism in 1983 when it published its eighth issue, which featured writers from this school. Granta 8, as the issue became known, included stories by Angela Carter, Bobbie Ann Mason, Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver, and many others. Although each of these dirty-realism writers has a distinctive style, they are connected by their sparse prose, simple language, and direct descriptions of ordinary people and events. Much of the fiction published in the New Yorker, where many of these writers were and are still published, is of the dirty-realism school, but today the term—as well as the practice—has somewhat fallen out of fashion. Many of Carver’s short stories, including “Cathedral,” are prime examples of the dirty-realist style.
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