NATIONAL BESTSELLER Winner of the Pulitzer Prize Winner of the National Book Award When The Stories of John Cheever was originally published, it became an immediate national bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize. In the years since, it has become a classic. Vintage Books is proud to reintroduce this magnificent collection. Here are sixty-one stories that chronicle the lives of what has been called "the greatest generation." From the early wonder and disillusionment of city life in "The Enormous Radio" to the surprising discoveries and common mysteries of suburbia in "The Housebreaker of Shady Hill" and "The Swimmer," Cheever tells us everything we need to know about "the pain and sweetness of life."
These are not happy stories. The earlier pieces are particularly bleak and raw. While the later stories are deeper and more nuanced, they are still pretty dark. Precious few have cheerful resolutions. The best Cheever’s characters seem to achieve is contentment despite imperfect circumstances.
Cheever’s is a world of commuter trains and cocktail parties, where everyone wears hats, has a cook, drinks martinis at lunch, summers, sails, and commits adultery. Not everyone is rich; in fact, money problems are a continuing theme. But the trappings, however tarnished, of a mid-century, Northeast corridor, upper crust way of life hang on all the stories. And that is Cheever at his best. He can bring us so deep into that world that it feels like living it.
Cheever may be best known for his stories that take place in the suburbs, but so far my favorites are the ones that take place in Manhattan, stories like The Superintendent, Clancy in the Tower of Babel, The Bus to St. James, Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor, The Five-Forty-Eight and The Sutton Place Story. It only takes a few sentences for Cheever to transport me to the sights and sounds of pre and post war Manhattan. And I don’t know whether to pity or laugh at those befuddled, suburbanite middle aged males portrayed by Cheever who refuse to accept their failures or diminished athletic skills that are associated with advancing age. Seems that although Cheever was a part of that suburban scene he so vividly described, he maintained a great sense of ironic humor in stepping back, observing, and writing about the darkness of that post war suburban milieu
What made me stick with it is the writing, which I enjoyed even if I thought he often had a lack of stories to tell. There were a few standouts that I really liked, although none of them blew me away, and I can’t say any of them were terrible, just sort of flat and dull at the worst.
Highly recommend this volume, but expect to take a long time to get through all the stories.