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Economical writing

Reading today about John Cheever:

He wrote stories in his underpants, not to wear out his clothes.
Morris Lurie, The Big Issue, #331, 16-29 June, 2009

Which is the kind of detail that grabs your attention.

“No one, absolutely no one, share his life with him.” This is Federico, Cheever’s younger son. “There was no one from whom he could get honest advice. Of course, this state of affairs was very much his own doing, but it must have been hard sometimes.”
Morris Lurie, The Big Issue, #331, 16-29 June, 2009

For some reason I thought of Hemingway when I read that. Probably because Hemingway had a habit of disowning his children when they disappointed him.

I confess I’ve never tried Cheever: there’s something about the classics that becomes either intimidating or unappealing with enough distance. Though I can’t say where I would’ve put Cheever before today. Now, of course, I’m intrigued.

Hemingway is about as far as I’ve drifted into the white-middle-class-American-male school of literature, & it was only mildly successful. Sure, the man can do an undeniably powerful turn of phrase (to state the bleeding obvious), but then again so much of what he writes is opaque to little white grrls like me.

But when wikipedia mentions that Cheever’s “main themes include the duality of human nature: sometimes dramatized as the disparity between a character’s decorous social persona and inner corruption, and sometimes as a conflict between two characters (often brothers) who embody the salient aspects of both–light and dark, flesh and spirit” — I have to say, I wonder why the hell I’ve never tried him. Here, surely, is a man after my own heart.


By then Cheever’s alcoholism had become severe, exacerbated by torment concerning his bisexuality. Still, he blamed most of his marital woes on his wife, and in 1966 he consulted a psychiatrist, David C. Hays, about her hostility and “needless darkness.” After a session with Mary Cheever, the psychiatrist asked to see the couple jointly; Cheever, heartened, believed his wife’s difficult behavior would finally be addressed. At the joint session, however, Dr. Hays claimed (as Cheever noted in his journal) that Cheever himself was the problem: “a neurotic man, narcissistic, egocentric, friendless, and so deeply involved in [his] own defensive illusions that [he has] invented a manic-depressive wife.”[12] Cheever soon terminated therapy.
— wikipedia

Right. Well. There’s always a downside.

Plus, I swear I met that guy.