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Friday, March 12th, 2010
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Cheever: A Life (Vintage)

by Blake Bailey

Suburban Ghetto: John Cheever, Misread and Misunderstood

A review by Jonathan Dee

Nineteen sixty-eight wasn't the most wretched year in the life of John Cheever, but it was close. On poor terms with his three children, bitterly angry with his wife for daring to initiate a career outside the home, and having recently had the last of his teeth removed, he spent his mornings struggling weakly to postpone his first drink of the day. Even though he was set to publish his third novel, Bullet Park -- which he suspected, correctly, wasn't very good -- his alcoholism had so crippled his ability to write that he was in the midst of a creative drought that would see him complete only one short story in three years. Tortured by the self-loathing his homosexuality engendered, increasingly estranged from his neighbors' social circle by his drunken excesses, he was so lonely that he not only answered all the fan letters he received but would frequently invite their authors, total strangers to him, to come to his house. He was just a couple of years away from touching bottom -- living alone and all but insensate in a Boston apartment, where he would come so close to drinking himself to death that his brain function was permanently impaired.

And then, as 1969 began, Life magazine called. Would Cheever consent, they wondered, to a feature article on his privileged life in the Westchester suburbs? Would he agree to host a cocktail party for his neighbors, which the magazine might photograph, and perhaps also a touch-football game on the lawn? Would he pose standing at the bottom of a neighbor's drained swimming pool? The author, of course, complied, though he later boasted that he got his interviewer, Wilfred Sheed, so plastered that Sheed had to return on a subsequent day to ask the last of his questions.

In the years before his death in 1982, John Cheever was arguably America's most famous living writer, and yet for all the attention we paid him, his public image could hardly have been more misleading. Obituaries referred to him as "a celebrant of sunlight," a Prospero of suburbia; his persona -- shaped, in large measure, by extraordinary appearances (more than a decade apart) on the covers of Time and Newsweek -- was that of a sagacious optimist and family man who sat among the commuters like Tolstoy in the village square, diagnosing the verities of the upper-middle-class heart. Cheever himself -- a terrible snob with an exaggerated Back Bay accent, who lied compulsively about his own WASP pedigree and who so valued conformity that as a young man he put on a suit every morning just to ride the elevators with the businessmen living in his New York apartment building -- did nothing to discourage this hagiography during his lifetime.

Almost immediately after his passing, it began to fall apart. With the publication of his letters, his daughter's memoirs, and, most astonishingly, selections from the vast, unforeseeably dark journals he kept all of his adult life, readers learned the extent to which his interior life was contorted by alcohol and depression and the guilty struggle to repress his homosexual longings. Blake Bailey's thorough new biography completes the total revolution our image of the man has undergone in the quarter century since his death. Disabusing ourselves of old notions about Cheever's happiness might seem like a pointless exercise, were it not for the accompanying suspicion that all the time we were celebrating him we were doing him the disservice of misreading his work too.

His childhood was a not-unfamiliar tale of lapsed aristocracy, of the eccentricity spawned by distinguished lineage and reduced circumstances. It wasn't until late in his writing career that he began mining his past for anything other than comedy; in The Wapshot Chronicle, for instance, he found lighthearted use for the fact that when his mother had been pregnant with him, his father had expressed his opinion of this development by inviting a local abortionist over for dinner. Their distinguished forebear Ezekiel Cheever may have been eulogized by Cotton Mather for "his untiring abjuration of the Devil," but by the time John was born there was little left of the past's dignities, and those his father still clung to -- for instance, the fact that his Massachusetts license plate had only four digits on it, which he felt marked him as "a man of substance" -- were mostly pathetic. As a lad, Cheever was short and unathletic, and his father took no pains to conceal his fear that he had "sired a fruit." John retained vivid memories of his father, a men's-clothing salesman, weeping at the breakfast table during the Depression, and then came the development that in some respects saved the family and in others dealt it a mortal blow: his mother opened up a gift shop, a rare enough enterprise for a woman, and one at which she had the temerity to succeed. This was the end of the marriage. Cheever's father became an unemployable alcoholic and local eccentric who spent his days writing epic letters to friends and public figures alike, living in an unheated Massachusetts farmhouse, stoking its five fireplaces to such an extraordinary glow in wintertime that drivers on the nearby highway frequently thought it was on fire. Cheever dealt with this heritage mostly via dissimulation, later citing in his journal "the familiar clash between my passionate wish to be honest and my passionate wish to possess a traditional past."

But the strangest of his family relationships had to have been with his older brother, Frederick, with whom he lived after the situation at home with his parents became intolerable, and with whom, one is startled to learn, he had, as a young man, a sexual relationship. (To be fair, Bailey himself writes that it is "hard to say" whether this relationship crossed the border into explicit sexual activity, but Cheever's journal entries on the subject, as well as his documented remarks to others, seem less ambiguous.) It is typical of Cheever's tragically convoluted thinking on the subject of homosexuality that this incestuous relationship between adults seemed to him so natural and incorruptible that it became in his mind a kind of model of purity, one that he longed to re-create his entire life.

His ejection from prep school gave him the material for his first published fiction, the precociously accomplished "Expelled," which appeared in The New Republic when he was just eighteen. Not that success was assured; he survived a chastening decade or so as a young writer in New York, scrounging for money, eating so little he would sometimes feel faint at his typewriter. He also had a brief sexual relationship with the photographer Walker Evans, among others; in those bohemian years, before marriage, Cheever's desires seem to have been somewhat less repressed. Still, the notion that sex with men tended ultimately toward anything other than self-destruction was a long way away: "If I followed my instincts," he wrote in his journal, "I would be strangled by some hairy sailor in a public urinal. Every comely man, every bank clerk and delivery boy, was aimed at my life like a loaded pistol." The guilt he suffered in the wake of such encounters -- which were rare enough, even in those early years -- was such that he referred to himself as "the walking bruise."

Despite, or perhaps because of, this sense of the toxicity of his own desires, he married the well-born Mary Winternitz (granddaughter of Thomas A. Watson, co-inventor of the telephone) in 1941. It is hard to do justice to the marriage of John and Mary, other than to say that it appears to have been one of the worst in recorded history, not least because neither of them could summon the fortitude to get out of it. Cheever was a narcissistic, closeted alcoholic with a chronic impotence problem and an absurdly conservative view of a woman's domestic role, all of which was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike his businessman peers in both city and suburbs, he was always at home. But every time you're ready to feel sorry for Mary and her forty-year martyrdom, Bailey supplies some reminder that, when it came to derision, she could give as good as she got. In 1958, when Cheever returned home from several days in the hospital after being treated for a viral pneumonia that was briefly thought to be a case of tuberculosis, his wife greeted him with the wistful observation that "it was nice while you were away to have a dry toilet seat" -- a remark so memorably cutting that he used it verbatim, twenty years later, in his novel Falconer.

At least there were roses in his hospital room while he waited for his pneumonia to clear. They had been sent by William Maxwell, his editor for decades at The New Yorker, and a man whose own literary afterlife seems destined to be that of hero in every biography and memoir in which he appears. Maxwell makes an amusing bete noire for Cheever not only by virtue of his seemingly effortless courtliness but because, as Bailey points out, Maxwell, too, had a wealth of homosexual experience in his youth yet had managed to do two things Cheever found impossible: first, to move beyond those youthful indiscretions and lead a "normal" life as a loving husband and father; and second, to write honestly about it, as Maxwell did in his early novel The Folded Leaf. (Bailey does tarnish Maxwell's halo somewhat: acting on behalf of his employers at The New Yorker, Maxwell appears to have screwed Cheever out of a fair amount of money, and he also stands guilty of having initially rejected some of Cheever's greatest and most unconventional work, including, unfathomably, "The Death of Justina," one of the three or four best stories Cheever ever wrote.)

Although Cheever published 121 stories in the magazine during his lifetime, it is worth remembering that The New Yorker was long regarded as a compromisingly middlebrow place to publish, and the insecure Cheever was always vulnerable to the canard that serious fiction only came in the form of a novel. His New Year's resolution for 1960, which fortunately he failed to keep, was to write no more short stories. In the end, he produced five novels (he didn't finish his first until he was forty-five, after almost three decades of story-writing), and even though he was virtually incapable of writing a bad sentence -- Bailey tells of his own glimpse of one of the first drafts of Falconer: unpunctuated, unparagraphed, and yet word for word almost identical to the published version -- none of the novels approaches the mastery of the stories. The novels are noteworthy for the amount of autobiographical material they contain, and for repeatedly playing out the theme of two "brothers" as different sides of one personality; from a technical perspective, however, they are little more than a series of set pieces strung together until a more or less satisfactory length is reached. The many prizes they received seem, in retrospect, more like indirect acknowledgments of how great a short-story writer he was. "One never, of course, asks is it a novel?" he once wrote, more than a little defensively. "One asks is it interesting and interest connotes suspense, emotional involvement and a claim on one's attention."

But of course it is the stories whose claim on readers' attention will outlive us all. He worked in two distinct modes, and templates for both appeared early in his career. "Goodbye, My Brother" (1951) thematically prefigures most of the novels with its portrait of two adult brothers at the crumbling family beach house that is their inheritance, and with the lesson one teaches the other about the perils of excessive gloom by nearly murdering him. Its tale of optimism and social ritual triumphing, if somewhat perversely, over the forces of depression and self-doubt is a tale about the two sides of one man's nature; to put it as Cheever himself did in a letter to Malcolm Cowley, "There was no brother," which overstates the case, but not by much. Though essentially realistic, its first-person narration pulls off lyrical flourishes (particularly in its famous last paragraph) that in another writer's work might easily curdle into sentimentality. Cheever's other narrative mode was that of moralistic fantasist, a contemporary Ovid or Aesop, as first evidenced in "The Enormous Radio" (1947), in which a Manhattan couple buys an expensive new radio that turns out to play a sordid audio feed of the lives of the fellow residents in their apartment building. This ancient style, to which he turned now and then for his entire career, helped make his reputation -- in part, one sees now, because the stories he wrote in this fabulist vein were the easiest to apprehend: their every detail is pointed like a flight of arrows to the same moral target. With one or two glorious exceptions, principally the darkly ambiguous "The Swimmer," they have not improved with age. Even the celebrated "O Youth and Beauty!" -- the story of the man who re-creates his high school track-star days by drunkenly hurdling the host's furniture at the end of every cocktail party -- seems at this distance to strive for a kind of unmistakability. We expect great writers to be wise, but there is too much of an air of moral surety about these pieces; as in the case of most other great artists -- and, certainly, as evidenced by "Goodbye, My Brother" -- Cheever was at his boldest when advancing into the precincts of self-doubt.

What is newly interesting about the fabulist stories is the claim -- put forth by Cheever himself, and echoed by both Bailey and Maxwell -- that the author was more or less ghettoized by his association with suburban cocktail parties and thus never received his critical due as a literary forefather of John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, and other disrupters of narrative convention. Indeed, the last of those names was a particular aggravation: "The stuntiness of Barthelme disconcerts me. One can always begin: 'Mr. Frobisher, returning from a year in Europe, opened his trunk for the customs officer and found there, instead of his clothing and souvenirs, the mutilated and naked body of an Italian sailor.' Blooey. It's like the last act in vaudeville and anyhow it seems to me that I did it fifteen years ago." Bailey calls this a "legitimate aesthetic grievance," which is not quite the same as saying he thinks Cheever was right. In fact, the "suave and witty narrator" (as Bailey puts it) of Cheever's work, who drops occasional meta fictional reminders of his own presence, seems more a throwback than a postmodern subversion. And then there is the unavoidable fact that some of his most daringly surrealistic stories are also his worst, such as "The Geometry of Love" -- about a man who employs Euclidean theorems to try to overcome the mercurial hatefulness of his wife -- a story so lazily schematic that Maxwell, concerned that alcohol was starting to strip Cheever of his powers, drove out to the author's suburban home to reject it in person.

Bailey's biography is artfully organized and highly readable; its tone, though, is one of pained detachment, which might seem odd until one remembers that his chief source is the author's own lifelong, 4,300-page, typed, single-spaced journal, and the journal, to put it bluntly, has a pretty high bullshit quotient. When long excerpts were first published in The New Yorker in 1990, and later in book form, they seemed almost unbearably honest and intimate; but at this distance it is easier to see how Cheever's confessions create ample room for mythmaking and self-pity. Take this entry, written during the family's year in Rome, after a drunken Cheever has made his nine-year-old son cry by mocking the boy's friends in front of company:

I speak to him, stupidly perhaps -- I was too drunk to remember what I said -- and this morning when I wake him he takes one look at me and buries his face in the pillows. He does not want to see me, touch me, he does not like my house or my friends. And standing in the Piazza Venezia beside a dirty beggar I get a crushing visitation of the shabbiness of my life.

One doubts the suspiciously literary existence of that "dirty beggar" -- but then why invent him at all? Why not just remain standing next to the young son whom Cheever has reduced to tears for no reason? His penitence after he misbehaves is so gussied up that it doesn't read like penitence at all -- more like a man striking penitential faces in a mirror. Even his remorse tends toward the narcissistic. Bailey is thus forever patiently correcting the exaggerations -- sometimes emotional, sometimes literal -- in his subject's own record, mostly by comparing it with the more sober reminiscences of Cheever's friends and family.

In discussing Cheever's work, though, Bailey's detachment is a little harder to fathom. Several pages of analysis are given over to each of the novels and to the more significant stories, but even here he tends to turn the microphone over to others, quoting not just contemporaneous reviewers such as Benjamin DeMott and Alfred Kazin but tributes from the likes of Michael Chabon and Rick Moody, whose inclusion seems a little less organic to the story he's telling. The opinions Bailey does express do very little to challenge the conventional thinking about Cheever's work -- "The Swimmer" is "his greatest story," Bullet Park is "a strange performance," and so on -- and at the end of the book he neglects to answer his own question as to whether the decline in Cheever's reputation is deserved, venturing only to "hazard a few guesses" rather than to argue the case, as one might expect a literary biographer to do, for his own subject's continued vitality.

Most egregiously, Bailey parrots the received wisdom that Cheever was engaged in some sort of "corrosive criticism" of the privileged bedroom communities in which he lived, that his was a "vision of suburban alienation." But if a revisit to Cheever's oeuvre shows us anything, it's that his art, and his alienation, had nothing to do with the suburbs per se. Cheever was, in his wife's phrase, a split personality -- not only alienated from himself but also fearful of being otherwise -- and that vision, which drove all his work, was something he took with him wherever economic circumstances forced him to go.

One night toward the end of 1950, the lights went out in the Cheevers' New York apartment, owing to his inability to pay the electric bill; this embarrassing augur of the cost of living in Manhattan induced him to move his family upstate to a rented house -- a converted machine shop, actually, on the grounds of a much larger estate -- in the town of Scarborough-on-Hudson, in Westchester County. (In what must have struck Bailey as an auspicious coincidence, the house itself had been occupied a few years earlier by the thirteen-year-old Richard Yates -- the subject of Bailey's previous biography -- and his mother, who were booted out for nonpayment of rent.) "The suburbs of the Northeast were still an experiment of sorts," Bailey writes, "and [Cheever] was quite earnestly curious about things: given the cultural vacuum, what sort of traditions would be established by such a diverse [sic] group of educated, affluent people?"

Certain traditions, not to say prejudices, were unfortunately likely to endure, and thus living among the "dauntingly normal" citizens of Scarborough only ratcheted up Cheever's fear of his own sexuality. He even worried that his appearance on the cover of Time in 1964 would "expose" him somehow. Crucially, though, it was never really the opprobrium of others that he most feared; acting on his impulses, he wrote, "would so damage the health of my self-esteem that I would be dealing with the obscenities of death." On the exceedingly rare occasions when he did give in, the guilt he suffered afterward was brutal. At one point, though urgently in need of money, he agonized over a lucrative offer to spend a few weeks writing a screenplay in Hollywood because he feared falling prey to the "sexual corruption" there.

He was to some degree an outsider -- he dressed so shabbily, at least in the local context, that the town police once stopped him on suspicion of vagrancy. And he reserved some vitriol in the journals for those neighbors he considered less cultured than himself. But he wanted to belong. He was embarrassed when his brother, Fred -- a full-blown alcoholic now, and something of a boor -- moved to the same town and began turning up at the same cocktail parties. In 1960, John bought a house in Ossining, which, characteristically, he insisted on telling journalists had a distinguished colonial history, notwithstanding the fact that it was actually built in 1928. In the suburban "experiment" in self-invention and instantly conferred nobility (Scarborough-on-Hudson itself was less than half a century old, established by the fiat of a bank tycoon), he saw something that not only appealed to him but synced up quite naturally with the way he had been living all along.

"The village hangs, morally and economically, from a thread," goes a line in "The Country Husband." "But it hangs by its thread in the evening light." He meant not to expose that thread but to exalt and protect it. He got the idea for "O Youth and Beauty!" at a local civil-defense meeting during which he sensed that everyone's mind was much more on the touch-football game scheduled to follow than on their own sober discussions of what to do when the A-bomb dropped. But he didn't see their distraction as shallowness or hypocrisy -- on the contrary, he approved of it: "This, he concluded, was as it should be -- a childish, larky escapism had its uses, at least when the alternative was contemplating Doomsday," Bailey relates, drawing on the journals. "He didn't have to write an 'excoriation of the suburbs' after all, adopting instead a tone of detached gaiety -- a tone most characteristic of Cheever's mature greatness."

And yet critics needed to believe he was writing censoriously about the suburbs. (When we talk about "the suburbs" in American art, we are almost always talking about an arrogantly small slice of humanity -- two counties, really: Westchester and Fairfield -- that is presumed to bear all the sins of American conformity.) But the stories are full of minor characters who mouth just the sort of indictments of suburban life Cheever himself is presumed to have supplied, and to a man they are portrayed as tiresome, humorless, and unattractive -- figures of fun. Attacking the pretensions of social and economic strivers is best left to lesser writers like Yates, whose Revolutionary Road uses its characters as punching bags and dares to call them representative of anything more than their author's desire to feel superior to them. Cheever's characters, though, aspire to live -- even to feel -- not in a way that challenges social expectations but in a way that is worthy of them; and when they are expelled from their closed society, it is always reflective of their own failings. In their corruption the characters are guilty not of exposing the pretentious strictures of their social existence but of letting those strictures down.

"The Country Husband" is exemplary of a Cheever story that is prized without really being understood. Its famous last line -- "Then it is dark; it is a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains" -- is often read as a reminder of eternity, a heroic invocation of greatness in sharp contrast to the pettiness on display in the story itself, in which Francis Weed, upset that his family does not care enough that he has just nearly died in a plane crash, falls in love with the teenage babysitter. But the correct reading, which Bailey manages to miss, is much more concrete. Midway through the story, as the Weeds' marriage is falling apart, Francis says goodbye to the host of a cocktail party they attend: "'She's my girl,' the host said, squeezing his wife.'She's my blue sky. After sixteen years, I still bite her shoulders. She makes me feel like Hannibal crossing the Alps.'" In Cheever's world, the happy, well-married man is king. His suburban ordinariness is not a prison; it is Francis's own inability to partake in that ordinariness that dooms him.

The suburbs may have provided an apotheosis of this idea, but the idea itself was Cheever's subject all along. We tend to forget how much of his best work is set outside that narrow world. Near the end of "The Bus to St. James's," a father picks up his daughter at her Upper East Side dancing school, having just come from a hotel assignation with the mother of another young student. In this most mannered and rarefied of settings, listen to where the indictment falls:

Two by two the children bowed, or curtsied, and joined the grown people at the door. Then Mr. Bruce saw Katherine. As he watched his daughter doing obediently what was expected of her, it struck him that he and the company that crowded around him were all cut out of the same cloth. They were bewildered and confused in principle, too selfish or too unlucky to abide by the forms that guarantee the permanence of a society, as their fathers and mothers had done. Instead, they put the burden of order onto their children and filled their days with specious rites and ceremonies.

The forms that guarantee the permanence of a society -- that is the "thread" Cheever found so beautiful and tried to set in an evening light. He loved and celebrated the social and economic mainstream, its arbitrary strictures and faux traditionalism notwithstanding, and lived in constant fear of falling from its favor and into the underworld he imagined lay beneath it. It is hard to think of another American writer who maintained that social restraints were to be valued as a kind of salvation, that salvation itself was a collective matter rather than an individual one, and the story of Cheever's own life, his desperate attempts to stave off depression by living the life he believed we are all meant to live, only amplifies the terrible beauty of that particular vision. "I would like to live in a world in which there are no homosexuals," he wrote, "but I suppose Paradise is thronged with them."

It is startling to consider, as Bailey points out, that the very idea of a major, alcoholic American writer getting sober and continuing to write was, before Cheever, without precedent. One of the keys to Cheever's renaissance, even before he stopped drinking for good in 1974, was the decision -- difficult to account for, on its face -- to accept a job teaching creative writing to the inmates of Sing Sing prison, right there in Ossining, New York. Bailey compares it to Chekhov's own late-career pilgrimage (of which Cheever spoke admiringly) to the penal colony on the island of Sakhalin. Ignoring the fact that one of these pilgrimages involved life-threatening hardships and a trip of thousands of miles across Asia whereas the other involved ten or fifteen minutes in the car, we can be generous and admit the similarities. It seems fair to speculate as well that part of the attraction for Cheever may have been the notion of a closed society in which homosexual relationships were not taboo.

At any rate, the inspiration provided by Sing Sing led to the satisfying final act of Cheever's life and career, in which the publication of Falconer -- by far his best novel, centering on a homosexual love affair in prison and a fratricide that makes good on the remarkably similar act of violence in "Goodbye, My Brother" -- was followed by the publication of Cheever's collected stories, the latter a main event, as the late John Leonard wrote at the time, not just in the particular publishing season but in the history of twentieth-century literature. The frankness of Falconer was either the cause or the effect of a similar relaxation of Cheever's censorious attitude toward his own sexuality, and he had a number of affairs with men in these final, sober years that his younger self would never have risked.

It would be a pleasure to be able to report that the unfettering of his sexual impulses turned him into a less egocentric person, but the sad fact is that he exhibited remorseless selfishness in hitting on younger men, often his own students. Much of the biography's last chapters is given over to the story of an unfortunate aspiring writer named Max Zimmer, whose emotional well-being Cheever was willing to ruin in exchange for the occasional sexual favor. (One anecdote will suffice: affecting to believe that sexual stimulation improved his eyesight, Cheever insisted that his own reading of any of his lover's manuscripts be preceded by a hand job in order to "clear [his] vision.") Others, like his Iowa student Allan Gurganus, were saved from the full force of Cheever's attentions by being, in the older writer's estimation, too "like a woman."

In his epilogue, Bailey inventively calls an unlikely witness: Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld and writer of a landmark episode of that TV series in which a trove of letters found after a fire reveal Cheever as the secret lover of George Costanza's soon-to-be father-in-law. Why Cheever? No special reason, David says; he was just looking for "a well-known writer who was gay."

Thus the revolution is complete: whereas once we saw Cheever as a happy and enviable Westchester family man, now, in the course of reading about that life, there are long stretches during which the knowledge of the agony caused by his closeted status is the only thing that enables us to work up any sympathy for him at all. He projected onto his sons his most crippling anxieties about the clichés of masculinity, such as making the varsity football team; he hectored his young daughter constantly about being fat and, despite her many precocious accomplishments, became most giddy when she brought home a young man named Cabot. He bragged at the dinner table about his affairs, even when the physical effects of his drinking made these indiscretions mostly emotional, as in his affair with the actress Hope Lange -- a great subject of the journals, which turns out to have been barely consummated.

John Updike (another bete noire, whom Cheever tried his best to like despite the envy Updike's fame and skill aroused) wrote of the journals that they "posthumously administer a Christian lesson in the dark gulf between outward appearance and inward condition." Fair enough. But our own construction of that "outward appearance" stemmed, it seems now, from a misreading of the work. That the suburbs are a false veneer, that they crush free spirits and steamroll dissent, is one of the most tired tropes in American narrative art. It is unfair and reductive that Cheever should be tarred as the father of all this, especially since he never really believed it himself. His work is far more idiosyncratic than that. His constant exhortations, in the fiction and in the journals, toward "valor" and "cleanliness" and "good cheer" are all easily identifiable now as code for his desire to enter the matrix of heterosexual respectability; but he's neither the first nor the last artist to turn private demons into oblique, extended metaphor. "That one is in conflict with oneself," he told a presumably bemused audience of Yale undergraduates in 1977, "that one's erotic nature and one's social nature will everlastingly be at war with one another, is something I am happy to live with on terms as hearty and fleeting as laughter." We can now see that the laughter itself was a sham, a construction born primarily of desperation and fear, but the work, and our literature, is still the richer for it.

Jonathan Dee's fifth novel, The Privileges, was published by Random House in January. His last essay for Harper's Magazine, on Deborah Eisenberg, appeared in the June 2006 issue.

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