The Stories of John Cheever

by John Cheever

Paper Book, 2000




New York : Vintage International, 2000.


"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."--Publisher's description.

Media reviews

So look closely at his pages, no matter if you’re studying my tattered version, or if you have a clean copy in hand. Look at the perspectives—cockeyed but exacting. Look at the characters—messy and mesmerizing. Look at the sentences— they’re full of scribbled stars.
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...There are colder, less hospitable places, of course. The tricks memory plays are usually flattering. But one of the surprises to be found in The Stories of John Cheever is that the stories are almost always better than people remember. Never before has it been possible to see so much of his
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short work so steadily and so whole. Never before has the received notion of a "typical" Cheever story—a satire on suburbia, based on fading Protestant morality —seemed further from the more complex and entertaining truth. This massive retrospective of 61 stories (selected by Cheever) is not only splendid from beginning to end paper; it charts one of the most important bodies of work in contemporary letters...
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User reviews

LibraryThing member RoseCityReader
The Stories of John Cheever, which won the National Book Critics Circle award in 1978 and the Pulitzer in 1979, is a chronological collection that spans Cheever’s short story career, from pre-WWII up to 1973. To read this collection – just shy of 700 pages – is to live in Cheever’s head,
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tracking his artistic and personal development in a way that a single novel or volume of stories doesn’t allow.

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.
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LibraryThing member SeanLong
For no particular reason, I read The Stories of John Cheever in chronological order and stopped to catch my breath after gliding through half of the first 61 stories. I had never read anything by Cheever until a few months ago when I read The Swimmer and The Enormous Radio as part of the One Story
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at a Time Thread (exactly one of the things I love about that thread - deriving enormous pleasure from authors whose work I would not have sought out on my own volition).

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
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LibraryThing member bongo_x
Here’s another collection of short stories that gets better as it goes along, but that makes sense as these are in chronological order. Most of the first half was a slog for me but the second half does get better, and much more creative. If this was a collection of the 10 best stories instead of
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the 60 or more that it is I would feel a lot different about it. As it is, it’s just way too much of the same thing. "Tearing down the myth of Suburbia" is just not that interesting, and not 50 times in a row. It felt like 90% of these were the same story, certainly the same setting, and even the same character names a lot of the time. Middle class New York or New England suburbs in the 50’s and 60’s. People are unhappy.

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.
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LibraryThing member jruthe2
My review is based solely around The Swimmer, but this story alone is sorth buying this book. He sets the story up perfectly and beautifully, and brings it to an end that Franz Kafka would admire.
LibraryThing member silva_44
I originally bought this book so that I could find a story in it for my 10th grade honors students. We were working on a standard which asks students to compare several stories by one author. After that, I read all of the stories, and was not altogether impressed. His writing gets a bit repetetive
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because the settings, neighborhoods, problems, and even characters' names don't change much. Several stories were fairly good, but the collection is really a product of a bygone era, to which I had difficulty relating. The stories don't seem all that timeless.
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LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
Love it, love it, love it! Stories of New York in the 1950's, martinis and disillutions, chasing the American dream and not succeeding - all have a theme but all are different - Cheever is a chronicler and touches touches deep in people's souls.
LibraryThing member AHibbert
Reading John Cheever stories is sort of like watching Michelle Kwan do triple axels over and over again. Sticking the landing every time. They are beautifully crafted and while I have some gender and class reactions to his subject matter, they are still triple axels and I'm sort of still working on
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my single.
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LibraryThing member RobertPriceRifkin
John Cheever has not been favored by the passage of the years. In the sixties and seventies Cheever was America’s most lauded writer of short stories and justly so. With the exception of J.D. Salinger, no writer of “the New Yorker” school so succeeded in portraying the time of the lives of
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middle-class New Yorkers of the post-war generation. Cheever was the unparalleled master of middle-aged angst, particularly as it affected men and his urban sketches have lost none of their power with the passing of the years. A handful of the stories collected in this book are certified classics–the Swimmer, Reunion–and there is not a clunker among them. If you despair about the state of the literary world, do yourself a favor and check out the work of one of the greatest American treasures, John Cheever.
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LibraryThing member kirstiecat
I'm not sure if this is the exact collection I just finished as the cover is different. Basically, I just read a 700 page short story collection by John Cheever. Some of them I would give a 5/5 to and others a 3/5 so it averages at a 4/5. He's an excellent writer and there's such an interesting
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sense to these, mainly set in suburban NYC in a town I'm not sure is fictional or non fictional. I feel Cheever tackles so many personal issues well and that this collection, despite it's lengthiness, is definitely well worth reading.
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LibraryThing member RodneyWelch
One of the great forgotten prose stylists. "The Five Forty-Eight," "The Swimmer," 'the Enormous radio," "Goodbye, My Brother," and "The Country Husband" are a few of the immortals, but read them all. Then read them all again.
LibraryThing member icolford
Without a doubt, Cheever's stories are an important landmark, not just in the annals of American literature, but in literature written in English. Simply put, this book is a fundamental text and must be read by anyone who claims expertise in the realm of literary fiction, and certainly by anyone
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who teaches literature or creative writing. Cheever's talent was prodigious and did not diminish with age. If anything, a life filled with personal struggles--a weakness for alcohol, a volatile marriage, a sexually conflicted nature--brought him into intimate contact with his own humanity and made his fiction honest and memorable. These are stories that tell us what it means to be human in the modern world--what it means to suffer and triumph and endure. It is irrelevant that they were written anywhere from 50 to 70 years ago, these stories speak in a voice that is contemporary and wise and will continue to speak meaningfully to those who come after us. John Cheever was self taught and the prose that flowed from his pen is distinctive and original. His moral outlook is ironic and Biblical. It is pointless to try to sum up this volume in a paragraph. Highlights include "The Country Husband," "The Housebreaker of Shady Hill," and "The Enormous Radio." If you are a student of modern literature or a writer of fiction and have not heard of John Cheever, buy, borrow or steal this book and read every page. Then read it again. It will challenge you to be a better writer and maybe even make you a better person.
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LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
I read through this over several years -- it's a huge collection of Cheever's short stories. Several are memorable, especially "The Enormous Radio" with its Twilight-Zone-like quality.

Highly recommend this volume, but expect to take a long time to get through all the stories.
LibraryThing member Paperpuss
One of the masters of the short story. His chronicles of life in upscale suburbia are shattering, elegant, and still ring true.
LibraryThing member ekerstein
I can not give this collection higher praise. John Cheever is often taught in creative writing classes--his famous 1-page story "Reunion" a potent example of concise storytelling. Also well known are "The Enormous Radio" and "The Swimmer."

This collection includes those, and more. Some of the best
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finds are "Goodbye, My Brother," "Torch Song," "The Season of Divorce," "The Children," "Montraldo," and "The Fourth Alarm."

There are also failures in this collection, but Cheever writes with such sincerity that one never doubts his intentions. There is a kind of modesty to Cheever's writing--an assurance that he is only seeking those timeless human moments--that one easily forgives his more overwrought constructions.
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LibraryThing member k6gst
Quite good.
LibraryThing member burritapal
I only checked out this book so I could read the story "The Swimmer," that they made into a movie, starring Burt Lancaster, in 1968. I skipped several of the stories towards the end. All I can think is that John Cheever hung around some of the creepiest humans, because that's who people his
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stories. He's extremely misogynistic, and he must have had some Kind of real strong connection in the publishing business, because he is a mediocre author. Here's some samplings of his strange wordings:

He dressed his deaf wife in salt bags and potato sacks. He was miserly. He was bitter.

Red-headed, deep-breasted, slender, and indolent, she seemed to belong to a different species

He heard people say that she was beautiful and stupid.

She was queer, Chester thought, she was as queer as the Chinese language.

with their thrift-shop minks and their ash-can fur pieces, their alligator shoes and their snotty ways with doormen and with the cashiers in supermarkets, their gold jewelry and their dregs of Je Reviens and Chanel.

She was a pretty woman with that striking pallor you so often find in nymphomaniacs

Perhaps she was frigid—but hardly, with that pallor.

When she lost her fat she became very pretty and quite fast. She smoked and drank and probably fornicated and the abyss that opens up before a pretty and an intemperate young woman is unfathomable.

His chair creaked, and by bulging his muscles a little he made his garters, braces, and shoes all sound.

It got so bad that we had to give him the works. We asked him up to Pete Fenton’s room for a cup of cocoa, roughed him up, threw his clothes out the window, painted his rear end with iodine, and stuck his head in a pail of water until he damned near drowned

It was his life, his boat, and, like every other man, he was made to be the father of thousands,

When he finally did marry, he picked a woman much younger than he—a sweet-tempered girl with red hair and green eyes. She sometimes called him Daddy.

The secretary was a hard-faced blonde, and the businesswoman was herself a figure of such astonishing unsavoriness—you might say evil—that no one spoke to her, not even the waiters. Her hair was dyed black, her eyes were made up to look like the eyes of a viper, her voice was guttural, and whatever her business was, it had stripped her of any appeal as a human being.

I have never seen such a relationship as that between Brimmer and the businesswoman that was not based on bitterness, irresolution, and cowardice—the very opposites of love—and any such indulgence on my part would, I was sure, turn my hair white in a moment, destroy the pigmentation in my eyes, incline me to simper, and leave a hairy tail coiled in my pants.

I am a native and I was wearing buckskin jump boots, chino pants cut so tight that my sexual organs were discernible, and a rayon-acetate pajama top printed with representations of the Pinta, the Niña, and the Santa María in full sail.

Update: I read a bit of Cheever's biography, and found out that he was bisexual, but was always hiding it. That he had a loathing of that side of him. So it makes more sense now, why all his stories show such loathsome sides to his characters: it was his dark mirror.
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LibraryThing member hcubic
Great thing to read in bed before you go to sleep. Wonderful short stories.
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
This is a selection of the great tales written by John Cheever. Numerous of them portrayed life in the 20th century upper middle class and were award-winning. They evoke wonder and relate a humanistic and sometimes almost postmodern view of contemporary life.



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