Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Last Story from a Great Storyteller

John Cheever’s name has appeared on the many lists of “One Hundred Books to Read” or Pulitzer Prize winning authors to read, but I had never read any thing he had written. From 1943 to 1982 he wrote short stories, novels, and television scripts and has been called the “Chekhov of the suburbs”. But the John Cheever story most of us will remember is “The Swimmer”. It is hard to forget the strangely forlorn Burt Lancaster, in his swimming trunks, as he swims his way home from one swimming pool to another, only to find his own home empty and locked, in the 1968 film set in an upscale Connecticut suburb.

John Cheever‘s “Oh What A Paradise It Seems,” published in 1982, has been called the last great work of a master storyteller. It is the story of Lemuel Sears “an old man but not yet infirmed.” Sears lives in New York City but he likes to ice skate on Beasley’s Pond in the small town of Janice where his daughter lives. When the ice melts Sears discovers that his beloved pond is being used as a dump. Sears decides to investigate this tragedy. What follows is a incredibly well written, amusing story. John Cheever knew how to write a beautiful sentence and was able to express so much in a few words. He is very witty and his anecdote about the celebrated prophetess Lemuel encounters in Eastern Europe was great fantasy. The story twists and turns between life in Janice and his life in New York City where he is carrying on a love affair with the beautiful, real estate agent, Renee. It is an interesting, funny story well worth the read. Cheever’s style is unique but his characters seem to be dated or caricatures. “Oh What A Paradise It Seems” has been called a fable and Cheever may have been ahead of his time. Discovering a scheme to pollute the environment for greed is one that has been revealed more than once in the last twenty five years.

“The Stories of John Cheever” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978. Cheever died in 1982 at the age of 70 and although "Oh What A Paradise It Seems" was the last book he wrote, there were letters, journals and a book of stories published posthumously.

No comments:

Post a Comment