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No one captures the imperfections of suburban, white collar, white bread America like Cheever does. No one. Well, especially in the North. If OConnor is the Queen of South Suburbia, Cheever is the King of North Suburbia.

@The Swimmer,@ of course, is his pièce de résistance in this collection, and with good reason - Ive been in love with unreliable narrators since. @The Five-Forty-Eight@ is another favorite of mine, as is @The Geometry of Love@ (loved it so much its where my AIM screen name comes from.)

Again, this is another collection I read when I was younger, so a lot of it skipped over me, but there was still lots for me to appreciate, and I look forward to getting back into it, especially now that Ive shed my suburban skin.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
John Cheevers short stories are peeling away at the decay of American suburbia. The dreams, desires and small victories and defeats of every day life make up for a bitter sweet, strong collection of stories, the best of which I did not think was The Swimmer, although obviously its still a great one. His ability to highlight the cracks on our surface is admirable and all the characters are human and humane. A good read.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
This is kind of a cheater review since I didn’t finish the book (this may happen at some point, though it will not be in the immediate future), but not finishing it left me with a few things to say, so here we are.

First, I have to say that I didn’t stop reading because I don’t like the writing. Cheever can render characters content in their discontent with the best of them, and I never expected him to be so funny. I didn’t mark many quotes, but here are two just for kicks:

“When you get to be as old as me, that’s the only way you can meet people—automobile accidents, fires, things like that.”

“’I don’t mind you looking in my windows at night, Mr. Marston,’ I was going to say, in a voice loud enough to embarrass him, ‘but I wish that you wouldn’t trample on my wife’s flowers.’”

Most of his humor has a dark edge to it, a sarcastic bitterness that fits his characters nicely. Several of the stories I got through end up relying on this humor for their full impact. “The Superintendent,” “The Sorrows of Gin,” and “The Five-Forty-Eight” all come to mind, although the latter is definitely darker, in some ways the darkest and saddest I read here, and I’m not entirely sure it was supposed to be amusing.

The whole humor bit was supposed to be a tangent, so it’s time to get this train back on the rails. Cheever’s characters, at both their best and their worst, are dynamic and catty and charming and quite a bit of fun to read. I have no quotes for this because I suck, but you should just take my word for it. No, really.


But. The thing is, it turns out I can only handle so many pages (262 to be exact) of stories detailing the intricacies and intrigues of upper middle class families summering on the Atlantic coast. This is a generalization, yes, but not a gross one. The stories start to feel familiar, as though we’re cycling through encounters with the same characters over and over with changed names to differentiate them. This may be enough if the stories are read separately with time and other stories between them, but back to back to back in a collection like this, the similarities in setting and characters and conflicts make it hard for any of them to stand out from the others. “Goodbye, My Brother” and “The Swimmer” still hold strong (after deciding I wasn’t going to finish the book this try, I skipped ahead to “The Swimmer” just to see if I still like it as much as I did years ago when I first read it, and I was relieved to find that I do), and some of the funnier or darker ones gain traction away from the pack, but too many of them don’t.


مشاهده لینک اصلی
The stories in this book were inconsistent. The best were masterpieces of the short fiction form. The worst seemed like quick hack jobs to make a deadline. I was irresistibly drawn to the Shady Hill stories, of which there were far too few. On the other hand, I frequently wished that he would get over his Italian obsession and write about New York again. He seemed to have been at his best when writing conservatively with an experimental flair (@The Swimmer@ is the perfect example). I do think the volume could be made better with some serious cutting. Still, the quality of the best does manage to support the duds.

Among the very best were:

Goodbye, My Brother (perfect)
The Common Day
The Enormous Radio (very well executed)
The Summer Farmer
Torch Song (irresistible)
Clancy in the Tower of Babel
The Season of Divorce (perfect)
The Children
The Housebreaker of Shady Hill
The Worm in the Apple (very clever)
The Country Husband (perfect)
Brimmer
The Death of Justina
The Swimmer (highly innovative)

Among the worst:

O City of Broken Dreams (ham fisted)
The Hartleys (hack job)
The Sorrows of Gin
O Youth and Beauty!
A Vision of the World
The Jewels of the Cabots (ravings of an old man?)

Id be willing to entertain arguments in favor of the ones I call the worst. Some of them are celebrated stories. I dont know why.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Cheever, John. COLLECTED STORIES AND OTHER WRITINGS. (2009). *****. Timed to come out at about the same time as the biography written by the editor of this volume, Blake Bailey, this is a comprehensive collection by the Library of America. It also has a companion volume that collects Cheever’s novels that you will be seeing on these pages someday soon. In addition to the stories that have been previously collected in “The Stories of John Cheever,” (1978), which I have in my collection, this volume also reprints some of Cheever’s works not in the earlier volume. Cheever was an amazing master of the short story, and depicted the lives of his characters set in suburban New York that reflected the mores of the time and the inner conflicts that they endured to conform to them. I enjoyed re-reading some of my favorites, including, “The Enormous Radio,” “Goodbye, My Brother,” “Torch Song,” “The Five-Forty-Eight,” and “The Swimmer.” These are stories that once you read them you will never forget them, but you will re-read them and discover new things each time. I can only highly recommend this collection to Cheever fans and, especially, to those who are not familiar with his works.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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