3 September 2009

Susan Cheever Quotes her Father John Cheever

In a wonderful book that I seem to recall finding at Hay-on-Wye on the Castle site and putting a silly sum such as 50p in a metal box for, Susan Cheever delves into her father John Cheever's journals, letters, etc, and finds a very interesting observation, written in 1968, by a man who has for many years scrupulously avoided any scatological language in his work: 'Donleavy, Mailer, Roth, Updike, some of the most important men we have are writing about cocks and cunts and arseholes while I describe the summer dawn.'

In an excess of hyphenation, Susan writes of her father's concealment of his homosexuality: 'As long as he was the Ossining squire, the father of three, the dog-loving, horse-back riding, meadow-scything, long-suffering husband, there could be no doubt in the public mind about his sexual preferences, and perhaps less doubt in his own.'

But then, immediately afterwards and in the same paragraph, she notes: 'After his heart attacks and his collapse and his decision to live, he seemed to come to better terms with himself. Falconer, the novel he wrote after he stopped drinking in 1975, is peppered with scatological language and centers on a tender and homosexual love.'

Susan Cheever, Home Before Dark: A Biographical Memoir of John Cheever by His Daughter (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1984).

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