Synopses & Reviews
This is the first new collection of John Cheever stories in more than fifteen years, and the first time these stories have ever been collected. Originally published in the 1930s and 1940s in magazines which run the gamut from obscure leftist literary periodicals, through The New Republic and The Atlantic Monthly, to mass circulation glossies like Colliers and Cosmopolitan, these stories deal with themes and use techniques which are not generally considered to be "Cheeveresque". They will undoubtedly surprise those readers familiar only with Cheever's post-1947 work. Each of these early stories bears the unmistakable stamp of the master storyteller. "Bayonne" is an evocative character study of a waitress whose work serving blue-collar regulars in a diner provides her with more emotional than financial support. "In Passing", which ends with the radical organizer Girsdansky haranguing a small unmoved crowd on the Boston Common at twilight, reveals perhaps more about states of mind during the Depression than standard histories of that era. "Fall River" is an elegy on economic catastrophe in a backwater New England town: Cheever calls up a picture of a wasteland with abandoned factories where "the looms blocked off the floor like discarded machinery in an old opera house". "The Autobiography of a Drummer" is a remarkable portrait of a man who has outlived his time. It anticipates Arthur Miller's Willy Loman by more than a decade. In this intriguing collection, Cheever plunges us into a stark world; the scenes are reminiscent of Edward Hopper. It is a world of foreclosures, down-and-outs, burlesque shows, desperate gamblers, and deferred hopes. It adds a new dimension to the assessment ofJohn Cheever's considerable reputation.