Thursday, February 11, 2010

John Cheever

Wikipedia: John William Cheever (May 27, 1912 – June 18, 1982) was an American novelist and short story writer, sometimes called "the Chekhov of the suburbs

I think of Cheever as the Turgenev of New England, an hereditary Yankee whose view of the starchy NNE (MA, CT; add NY/NYC) is hopelessly doomed, (as was Hawthorne’s*)

Cheever was & wrote about bitterly proud Yankee descendants living as secretive failures, alcoholics, bisexuals among recent waves of cadent urban & suburban parvenus. The Yankees lose this time: their failures really do call themselves “Swamp Yankees” & they don’t all get into Harvard; Cheever didn’t.

Once you read his Wikipedia entry, you won’t need to know any more about Cheever, but you will need to read at least one of his short stories & one of his novels. You choose, but I’d read all of his collected stories, The Stories of John Cheever (1979, Pulitzer Prize), for an unforgettably deflating experience. After that, read any/all of his novels, his journal & letters, then the biography written by his daughter, novelist Susan.

[* Like Hawthorne, I was born in Salem, once the clipper-ship capital of New England, but now the tourists' witch-capital.]

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