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The Wapshot Chronicleby John Cheever
Winner of the 1958 National Book Award for Fiction
"The Wapshot Chronicle seems to me an enormously flawed and erratic book — the pacing is all wrong, there is zero in the way of plot, or even momentum, much of it is overwritten, a lot of the digressions are uninteresting, and few of the characters — certainly none of the women — are, in that favorite term of the leaden critic, 'sympathetic.' The Wapshot Chronicle is, however, sort of a great novel — or I guess I should say that I often thought it was great — but it's everything a great novel isn't supposed to be." Adrienne Miller, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
The Wapshot Chronicle Introduction
"The Wapshot Chronicle is the telling of the history and circumstances of the eclectic Wapshot family. The small, perhaps antiquated, New England river town of St. Botolphs is the home of the Waphot family: Honora, born on Oahu of missionary parents but raised by her paternal Uncle Lorenzo; Leander, an aging and gentle ferryboat operator and would-be suicide; his wife Sarah (Coverly) Wapshot, mother of Moses, the errant and mischievous elder brother to Coverly, the adoring and somewhat lambent brother. "The Wapshot Chronicle is an exploration of the clash between pious and bourgeois respectability, the slippery mores of a new and vigorously changing America and the inner drives of hearty, small-town New England stock.
Discussion Questions Describe the Wapshot family. What is it, beyond the tie of blood relation, that connects them? How attuned are they to each other's internal strife? Describe the family dynamic — why do Leander and Sarah allow themselves to continue to be bound to Honora? Is it only that she controls the family purse strings and their income? Is the wielding of this control a flaw of Honora's character? Is this the only element of control that Honora impresses upon them?
About the author
A writer for most of his life and best known for his short stories, John Cheever was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1912. He published his first short story at the age of 17 and, in 1979, was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for his collection of short stories, "The Stories of John Cheever. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1951, a Howells Medal Award (awarded by the National Academy of Arts and Letters for The Wapshot Scandal) in 1964, and winner of the 1978 American Book Award for "The Stories of John Cheever. His later novels include "Bullet Park (1969), "Falconer (1977), and "Oh What a Paradise It Seems (1982). "The Journals of John Cheever was published posthumously in 1991. He died in 1982, at the age of 70.
John Cheever is considered a master storyteller and one of America s most original writers. He is also deemed a virtuoso of characterization; the characters that people his works offiction, short stories, and novels alike are a unique blend of individual glory and eccentricity. He was insatiably fascinated with the dynamics of human relationships and the unique responses of ordinary individuals to the shifting, if otherwise commonplace, entanglements of life. "The Wapshot Chronicle and its sequel, published two years later, "The Wapshot Scandal, illustrate the breadth and scope of Cheever's vision, his interests, and his narrative style.
"[T]he best introduction to Cheever's work....Richly inventive and vividly told." New York Times Magazine
"[John Cheever is] a master American storyteller." Time
"There's a revolution of perception in The Wapshot Chronicle, a revolution of perfect observation and warm, acerbic, melancholy humanism." from the Foreword by Rick Moody, author of The Ice Storm
"Beautifully rewarding....A compelling book....Every page is a model of narrative virtuosity." Robert Penn Warren, author of All the King's Men
"[John Cheever's] gamey, witty, sad, and truthful novel is an admirable, splendid achievement." Jean Stafford
When "The Wapshot Chronicle" winner of the 1958 National Book Award, was published in 1957, Cheever was already recognized as a writer of superb short stories. Based in part on Cheever's adolescence in New England, the novel follows the destinies of the wildly eccentric Wapshots of St. Botolphs, a quintessential Massachusetts fishing village.
When The Wapshot Chronicle was published in 1957, John Cheever was already recognized as a writer of superb short stories. But The Wapshot Chronicle, which won the 1958 National Book Award, established him as a major novelist.
Based in part on Cheevers adolescence in New England, the novel follows the destinies of the impecunious and wildly eccentric Wapshots of St. Botolphs, a quintessential Massachusetts fishing village. Here are the stories of Captain Leander Wapshot, venerable sea dog and would-be suicide; of his licentious older son, Moses; and of Moses adoring and errant younger brother, Coverly. Tragic and funny, ribald and splendidly picaresque, The Wapshot Chronicle is a family narrative in the tradition of Trollope, Dickens, and Henry James.
About the Author
John Cheever, best known for his short stories dealing with upper-middle-class suburban life, was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1912. Cheever published his first short story at the age of seventeen. He was the recipient of a 1951 Guggenheim Fellowship and winner of a National Book Award for The Wapshot Chronicle in 1958, the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Stories of John Cheever, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and an American Book Award. He died in 1982, at the age of seventy.
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