Author I haven’t read yet: John Cheever

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“The need to write comes from the need to make sense of one’s life and discover one’s usefulness.”

– John Cheever  


While searching for some writing advice from Matthew Weiner, I stumbled upon an interesting interview he did for the Paris Review. In it, he mentioned something about John Cheever that really piqued my curiosity:

“Cheever holds my attention more than any other writer. He is in every aspect of Mad Men, starting with the fact that Don lives in Ossining on Bullet Park Road—the children are ignored, people have talents they can’t capitalize on, everyone is selfish to some degree or in some kind of delusion. I have to say, Cheever’s stories work like TV episodes, where you don’t get to repeat information about the characters. He grabs you from the beginning.”

Since Mad Men is one of my favourite shows, Weiner’s high praise really made me want to read everything Cheever ever wrote. (I’m a book nerd, so that’s generally what happens when I get excited about an author.) So I ordered myself a copy of The Stories of John Cheever because that seemed like a pretty good starting point. As I waited for it to arrive in the mail (such sweet anticipation), I realized that I knew very little about John Cheever other than the rumour I heard that he was a difficult interview subject because he didn’t like to talk about his work. I did come across this interview (also in the Paris Review) though, where Cheever discussed his writing life just a little bit:

“…finishing a novel, assuming it’s something you want to do and that you take very seriously, is invariably something of a psychological shock.”

When The Stories of John Cheever arrived, I flipped to the table of contents to peruse the story names. Something tells me these won’t be uplifting:

Goodbye, My Brother
O City of Broken Dreams
Christmas Is a Sad Season for the Poor
The Season of Divorce
The Sorrows of Gin
The Day the Pig Fell into the Well

If Cheever is actually Mad Men‘s spirit animal as this article suggests, I’m sure his work will be dark, complicated, and unbelievably beautiful. I can’t wait to get to know him a little better.

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