This is a great piece, Amber, your personal Ode to the Short Story.
Firstly, I didn’t like Cheever’s collection at all. I didn’t even like his most hailed story “The Swimmer”. But I did love “Goodbye, My Brother”.
I think you make a lot of salient points, particularly about the uphill battle that short story writers face, but I remember a lot of awesome short stories in high school. "Desiree’s Baby" by Kate Chopin. "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. "To Build a Fire" by Jack London (god, I’m weak. Love that short story). … and so many more. But, yeah, maybe more contemporaries could be also taught.
Also, I think poets may be just as much pushed into the publication of chap books.
Also, Raymond Carver, one of my most favorite short story writers, was well hailed for his work as a short story writer. I’m not a big fan of Jhumpa Lahiri or Junot Diaz, but I believe Lahiri’s short stories were very successful before her 'debut' novel, and Diaz published Drown, what is actually termed as a 'debut' short story collection, and which, I believe, did pretty well. And Haitian-American Edwidge Danticat’s short story collection Kirk? Krak! was highly praised.
The only actual work of Kafka’s that I am familiar with is “Metamorphosis" via primary school, which probably also describes many other people. But many writers like him started off serializing their short stories for pay.
For some, short story writing is and can be lube to the build up of a novel, which isn’t bad, just sometimes a progression. In my creative work, I started first with ‘illustration’ then became interested in making gifs then stop motion, and now I’m exploring short videos. Sometimes things are just a natural progression. I’ve read some brilliant short stories over the years, but I do think the market is a niche. Doesn’t have to be a bad thing, just what is. Keep writing! You don’t know where it’ll take you next!