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Collected Stories

John Cheever

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Vintage Classics

Published : 2009

Copyright : John Cheever 1978

ISBN-10 : PB 0-09-974830-4
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-09-974830-4

Publisher's Write-Up

The complete collection of award-winning stories from one of the finest American writers of the last century.

This outstanding collection by Pulitzer prize-winning novelist John Cheever, show the power and range of one of the finest short story writers of the last century. Stories of love and of squalor, they include masterpieces such as The Swimmer and Goodbye, My Brother and date from the time of his honourable discharge from the Army at the end of the Second World War.

About the Author:
John Cheever was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1912, and he went to school at Thayer Academy in South Braintree. He is the author of seven collections of stories and five novels. His first novel, The Wapshot Chronicle, won the 1958 National Book Award. In 1965 he received the Howells Medal for Fiction from the National Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1978 he won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Shortly before his death in 1982 he was awarded the National Medal for Literature.

'John Cheever is an enchanted realist, and his voice, in his luminous short stories and in incomparable novels like Bullet Park and Falconer, is as rich and distinctive as any of the leading voices of postwar American literature.'

Philip Roth



'[they] define what a short story should be - intense, moving and resonant.'

The Scotsman
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Cristina Frincu (310511) Rating (7/10)

Review by Cristina Frincu
Rating 7/10
There was a time when every gentleman wore a hat and covered any trace of greed or sexual adventures with polite smiles and decent behaviours. The American writer John Cheever chose that time for a photographic-like exposure in a series of short stories whose images balance slightly between slide and negative.

People from John Cheever's stories appear as if dressed in the definition of decorum, being so well-behaved, decent and polite, often active participants at family reunions and neighbourhood parties as well. Like any real coat, decorum is just a cloth, not to be mistaken for spiritual food or optimism infusion, much less for an imperfection remedy. Decorum covers a whole range of dramas that people you live with, in the same family or building, sharing the same bed or elevator, have to conquer. Decency often seems the carpet under which personal dirt hides.

The dualistic personality of John Cheever's characters is available to view only after we meet their decorous side. After the first meeting the reader discovers meanness, banality, triviality, alcoholism, cheapness, a whole lot of faults, for short. It's not unusual for one of his fictional family fathers to ignore his child needs and concentrate on the decreasing number of alcohol bottles, or for the elevator man on duty on Christmas Day to scare the tenants after receiving many presents, food and liquor from them, by cruising the elevator at high speeds. It's like the writer himself finds impossible to create a character with a good essence.

Cheever's women are the embodiment of personal frustration, of which they became aware after some apparently harmless events. The easiest solution that seems to fit every circumstance, once the revelation of a life outside the housewife boundaries being received, is divorce. Cheever appears unable to overcome some undefined, unknown obstacle between the masculine and the feminine; the opposite sex causes him not just the common perplexity of the man unable to understand a woman need to personal accomplishment, but also the revelation of a faulty , insufficient knowledge of the woman. "The extraordinary fact seemed to be that after 20 years o marriage I didn't know Cora well enough to know whether or not she intended to murder me." This estrangement from the feminine literary character parallels Cheever's personal life. Convinced that all their marriage problems come from his wife's difficult personality, the writer consults a psychiatrist, David Hays. Dr. Hays demolishes Cheever's conviction about his wife's hostility blaming the writer himself, who he characterizes as a "neurotic man, narcissistic, egocentric, friendless, and so deeply involved in [his] own defensive illusions that [he has] invented a manic-depressive wife." (Wikipedia, 2004)

One of the MGM's executives, Leonard Spigelgass noticed Cheever's "childlike sense of wonder" (Wikipedia, 2004), a quality that conveys a positive attitude facing the meaningless days without any moral lessons or significant endings. These days outnumber the occasional life changing moments but they are seldom remembered or prized. In a world where everybody searches for his own meaning, Cheever seems to force the reader to observe, instead of rummaging through life. Like he pointed out in The Superintendent, sometimes life simply tells you to live: "The day had failed to have any meaning, and the sky seemed to promise a literal explanation. [...] Was that it? Chester asked, looking at the blue air as if he expected an answer to be written in vapour. But the sky told him only that it was a long day at the end of the winter, that it was late and time to go in."

Though a master of intense, limited scenes, of crucial moments and apparently monotonous episodes with an unsuspected evolvement, Cheever was accused of binding the facts too lose (Saturday Review, 1957), which gives his stories an inconsequent feature. The writer argued sincerely, though harsh: "Our lives are not long and well-told stories." (Scofield, 2006)
Cristina Frincu (31st May 2011)

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