Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey

By Blake Bailey

From the acclaimed writer of a sad Honesty: The existence and paintings of Richard Yates comes the unforgettable lifetime of John Cheever (1912–1982), a guy who spent a lot of his profession impersonating an ideal suburban gentleman, the higher to turn into one of many leading chroniclers of postwar the US. “I used to be born into no precise class,” Cheever mused in his magazine, “and it was once my selection, early in existence, to insinuate myself into the center category, like a undercover agent, in order that i'd have an beneficial place of assault, yet I appear at times to have forgotten my venture and to have taken my disguises too seriously.” Written with exceptional entry to crucial sources—including Cheever’s enormous magazine, just a fraction of which has ever been published—Blake Bailey’s biography unearths the stricken yet surprisingly adorable guy in the back of the disguises, an artist who extremely joyful within the daily radiance of the area whereas craving, chiefly, “to be illustrious.”

Cheever’s was once a soul in clash: he used to be a proud Yankee who flaunted his lineage whereas deploring the provincialism of his Quincy, Massachusetts, kin circle; a high-school dropout who released his first tale at eighteen; a pioneer of suburban realist fiction who always driven the limits of realism; a dire alcoholic who recovered to put in writing the nice novel Falconer; a mystery bisexual who struggled along with his longings and his fierce homophobia in a revolving door of self-loathing and hedonism. We see a guy who hid his anxieties in the back of the masks of a genial Westchester squire—a paterfamilias in Brooks Brothers outfits whose global was once peopled by means of mythical writers and gorgeous ladies (Malcolm Cowley, Saul Bellow, William Maxwell, desire Lange, and John Updike, between them); whose groundbreaking paintings landed him at the covers of Time and Newsweek; a guy whose demons and desperation have been by no means particularly vanquished through the enjoyment he present in his work.

Blake Bailey has written a luminous biography, a revelation of a author of undying fiction and of the guy at the back of the web page.

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He [Dad] got married and after that I was one of the last things of importance on his list,’ Kurt complained. ’ Kurt was sent to stay with relatives, including Wendy’s brother Chuck and his wife. Chuck played drums in a rock band and helped Kurt develop an interest in music, buying him an electric guitar and arranging for him to have lessons. ‘[His] main goal was to play “Stairway to Heaven”, which he denied later on,’ says Warren Mason, who taught Kurt guitar and gave him advice on songwriting.

He also had a marked musical talent, which was not true of them all. His was a musical home, with Dad playing the organ and Mum giving piano lessons to local children. Unlike many rock musicians, Brian learned to read and write music, and he played a variety of instruments to a high standard, including the piano, clarinet, saxophone and guitar. ‘He could pick up any instrument, particularly stringed instruments, and find his way around them,’ recalls Peter ‘Buck’ Jones (no relation), who played with Brian in a local band.

Drug use was depressingly common among Kurt’s generation in Aberdeen, Kurt being one of a number of local boys who became heroin addicts, sometimes with fatal consequences. Drug use began as a laugh. Kurt and his friends would crawl under the Young Street Bridge to smoke dope in private, while cars rumbled overhead, including hearses on their way to the cemetery. It wasn’t long before Kurt was coming into school stoned. ‘When he was high, it was obvious,’ says Bob Hunter. ‘We’d take a walk to the door.

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