John Cheever. The Stories of John Cheever

Photo: Andre Zand-Vakili

We read Cheever not because we love stories about the suburbs, but because Cheever shows us that a wild imagination can’t be bound even by the suburbs. We enjoy the quality of observation, the dialogue, the air-tight construction (and what he teaches us about form both in every example and over the course of the collection), but we read him for those moments when his stories take wing to escape cliche, banality, and the mundane. The stories “Goodbye, My Brother,” “The Five Forty-Eight,” “The Country Husband,” and, famously, “The Swimmer” are purely astonishing. Even a fairly low-profile story will spring upon you with a a single perfect paragraph (“The Death of Justina” with its English muffin). There are gothic horror, a sudden, latent sensuality, and a tenderness for little children; there are collages and fantasies and ruptures that remind me of Barthelme; there is a whole world riding that commuter train.
Read May 2011