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The Journals
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'Invariably thoughtful, honest, beautifully written' Guardian

About the Author

John Cheever was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1912, and he went to school at Thayer Academy in South Braintree. He is the author of seven collections of stories and five novels. His first novel, The Wapshot Chronicle, won the 1958 National Book Award. In 1965 he received the Howells Medal for Fiction from the National Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1978 he won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Shortly before his death in 1982 he was awarded the National Medal for Literature.

Reviews

From the late 1940s until a few days before his death of cancer in 1982, the eminent American short story writer and novelist ( The Wapshot Chronicle ) recorded daily encounters with family, friends and, most powerfully, with conflicting impulses in himself. Cheever's journal entries, as selected here by his editor and introduced by his older son, Benjamin, reveal a life bracketed by ``galling loneliness'' and rewarding engagement with others; by a highly libidinous nature and comfort found in the conventions of his upper-middle-class, church-going, suburban New York City existence; by shame over his bisexuality and alcoholism and by moments of soaring delight in his family and in the physical world. Occasional references are made to fellow writers, e.g., Saul Bellow, Irwin Shaw and Norman Mailer, whose work evoked both despair and inspiration, and to the genesis of his own stories, but Cheever's attention never moves far from his efforts ``to recognize the power of as well as the force of lust, to write, to love.'' Dated only by year, the entries flow seamlessly through seasons, holidays and family occasions, identifying family members and public figures by name and lovers by initials. Cheever documents the steady and anguished deterioration of his relationship with his wife, Mary, who is his literary executor (``How large a continent this is,'' he observes of his marriage in 1968), his fierce love for and sometimes distance from his three children, his gradual acceptance of his desire for men, his triumph over drinking and, wrenchingly, his final days. Most explicitly, however, he records his attempts to integrate often-warring aspirations and appetites. On a bus in Rome in 1957, the touch of an unseen stranger--``I will never know if it was a man or a woman, a tart or a priest''--on his shoulder creates a near-overwhelming wish for tenderness: ``This is not a violet-flavored sigh or a Chopinesque longing; it is a longing as coarse and real as the hair on my belly.'' Cheever's journals will likely prove as lasting a body of work as his fiction. BOMC alternate. (Oct.)

"One of the most compelling and intimate books you'll ever read" * Independent *
"Beautifully written, lyrically spiritual, sexually candid memoirs" * Mail on Sunday *
"Cheever's journals include the struggle for recognition, the problem-drinking and covert homosexuality of a public figure and, finally, cancer. His intelligence and honesty powerfully communicate the sense of life as an urgent predicament" * Sunday Times *
"These diaries are so painfully personal...that they were not published until after his death. But they also concentrate the true essence of what made his short stories great" * Sunday Express *
"John Cheever understood fallibility and that made for the greatness in his writing" * The Times *

As explained in the editor's note, the published volume contains selected portions of Cheever's extensive personal journals. Published with the cooperation and assistance of the author's family, it represents one-twentieth of the actual journals, which span a 35-year period. The journals served Cheever both as writer's notebook and memoir, clarifying much of his method of working. The inner life of a writer is revealed in these highly introspective memoirs. Cheever writes of his alcoholism and his bisexuality; his ``war with the world''; his loneliness, alienation, depression, and carnal fantasies; his love for his family; his religion (Catholicism); his perception of the role of the writer in society; and his enjoyment of the rural life at his home in the Hudson valley, all with remarkable powers of description. A candid, beautiful, often startling portrait of a 20th-century American writer. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/91.-- Lesley Jorbin, Cleveland State Univ. Lib.

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