John Cheever was one of the foremost chroniclers of post-war America, a peerless writer who on his death in 1982 left not only some of the best short stories of the twentieth century and a number of highly acclaimed novels, but also a private journal that runs to an astonishing four million words. Cheever's was a soul in conflictm who hid his ...
John Cheever was one of the foremost chroniclers of post-war America, a peerless writer who on his death in 1982 left not only some of the best short stories of the twentieth century and a number of highly acclaimed novels, but also a private journal that runs to an astonishing four million words. Cheever's was a soul in conflictm who hid his troubles - alcoholism, secret bisexuality - behind the screen of genial life in suburbia, but as John Updike came to remark: 'Only he saw in its cocktail parties and swimming pools the shimmer of dissolving dreams ...' Blake Bailey, writing with unprecedented access to the journal and other sources, has brought characteristic eloquence and sensitivity to his interpretation of Cheever's life and work. This is a luminous biography that reveals behind the disguises with which he faced the world a troubled but strangely lovable man, and a writer of timeless fiction. 'Stunningly detailed ...Even more eloquent and resourceful than Bailey's celebrated biography of Richard Yates, A Tragic Honesty ...Bailey's interweaving of Cheever's fiction with his experience is a tour de force' New York Times Book Review
Snob, flirt, bad writer, literary giant, itinerant father, impotent husband, a drunk, mendacious, ambitious, competitive, 'catty', devious. bi-sexual, treacherous, boastful, jealous, cruel... all these descriptions can be used to portray John Cheever (or 'Cheevah') as he sometimes pronounced his name. With this leading character, there is no way this well-researched book could be anything but immensely interesting and absorbing. Blake Bailey has gone to those who knew and had dealings with Cheever, giving a close-up picture of this man in sexual torment all his life, with intense sexual needs right up to the time he was dying of cancer. There is the feeling here that nothing has been left unresearched.
Married to an unforgiving and contemptuous wife, with 3 children he disregarded a lot of the time, Cheever was wracked by envy and jealousy when it came to his literary peers. He was often scathing about John Updike (who kept a sweet, silent mien himself), full of admiration and envy of Saul Bellow with an eye on the prizes that both scooped up over the years. His uncomfortable and at times depleting relationship with those at The New Yorker seemed to cause fear that he was just a short story writer, but with The Wapshott Chronicles, Bullitt Park and The Falconer, his star rose and the awards began to come in.
This is a gripping account of man's struggle to overcome his weaknesses, and yet finally to accept himself for what he is - a human being with noble aspirations but human failings. There is the feeling that John Cheever gave life a helluva shot. Great read.
Publishers Weekly, 2008-11-24 Rebellious Yankee son of a father who fell victim to the Depression and a doo-gooder-turned-businesswoman mother, father to three competitive children he rode mercilessly but adored, chronicler par excellence of the 1950s American suburban scene while deploring all forms of conformity: John Cheever (1912-1982) was a mass of contradictions. In this overlong but always entertaining biography, composed with a novelist's eye, Bailey, biographer of Richard Yates and editor of two volumes of Cheever's work for Library of America (also due in March), was given access to unpublished portions of Cheever's famous journals and to family members and friends. Bailey's book is fine in descriptions of Cheever's reactions to other writers, such as his adored Bellow and detested Salinger. Bailey is also sensitive in describing the prickly dynamic of Cheever's domestic life, lived through a haze of alcoholism and under the shadow of extramarital heterosexual and homosexual relationships. This "Ovid in Ossining," who published 121 stories in the New Yorker as well as several bestselling novels, has probably yet to find a definitive position in American letters among academicians. This thoroughly researched and heartfelt biography may help redress that situation. 24 pages of photos. (Mar. 12) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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