Winner of the 1958 National Book Award for Fiction
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?
Even though it is Moses who is commanded to leave St. Botolphs, Coverly follows him. Why does Coverly also leave St. Botolphs? What do Moses and Coverly stand to gain by seeking futures outside of St. Botolphs and what do they actually accomplish? Do they cling to one another at the expense of their individuality -- or does their separation release them and allow them to grow independently of one another?
Uncle Lorenzo, whom we never directly meet,travels to the South Pacific on a voyage of expiation with his wife, where, subsequently, Honora is born. How do Honora's standards of decency live up to the missionary precedent set by her parents? How does she diverge from those standards? What do the townspeople come to expect of Honora, what does she expect from herself, and how is this brought to bear on other Wapshots?
Leander keeps a journal in which he regularly writes rules by which a man should live. To what extent did Leander live by these rules? What did he gain in his specificity? To what extent did the other residents of St. Botolphs, including the Wapshots, organize their lives by rules? Did the mores of the town reflect the changing mores of the nation?
Purity and carnality are major themes in Cheever's works. Which of the characters abide by traditional sexual codes? How does their behavior reflect their attitudes about mid-20th-century America? Are the male characters more concerned with carnality than the female characters?
"The Wapshot Chronicle is a family saga that focuses on intergenerational differences. Think about the differences between the earlier, esteemed Wapshots, Thaddeus and Lorenzo, and a comparison of Honora, Leander, and Sarah's generation to that of Coverly and Moses. How does each generation come of age? Does St. Botolphs nurture them all in the same way?
The Wapshots traditionally place great importance on family lineage. Do you think this was a factor in the choice of brides for either Moses or Coverly? How do Melissa and Betsey compare to Sarah and Honora? How do they compare to their husbands?
The beginning of the novel is comparable to that of the Bible's Genesis. Whatplace, if any, does God occupy in the lives of the Waphsots? Why did John Cheever structure the novel in this way? What response from readers might he have been trying to evoke?
Did Honora apply her moral dictates to her own behavior? Who was Honora's fiercest judge? Does Honora see the new and emerging America as powerful and progress-minded? Does she harbor a patriotism for the nation that matches her love of St. Botolphs?
Many of Cheever's characters feel a compelling need for rebirth. The desire human beings have for a cleansing or baptism is universal and is evident in his characters. How do Leander and Sarah achieve this? To what extent is the Topaze a part of it? Are Cheever's women more desirous of inner rebirth than the men?
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
"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)
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.
Without A Stitch in Time is a collection of articles written for The New Yorker: gently satirical stories about Peters childhood in Chicago, his various jobs, the move East to new York, and family life in suburbia and beyond. The stories date from 1943 to 1873 and give readers a sense of where De Vries strangely nervous wit comes from: verbal sparks from the cognitive dissonance between his strict and abstemious Calvinist upbringing in the 1920s and the world of 1950s Mad Men suburbia.
Harking from the golden age of fiction set in American suburbiathe school of John Updike and Cheeverthis work from the great American humorist Peter De Vries looks with laughter upon its lawns, its cocktails, and its slightly unreal feeling of comfort. Without a Stitch in Time, a selection of forty-six articles and stories written for the New Yorker between 1943 and 1973, offers pun-filled autobiographical vignettes that reveal the source of De Vriess nervous wit: the cognitive dissonance between his Calvinist upbringing in 1920s Chicago and the all-too-perfect postwar world. Noted as much for his verbal fluidity and wordplay as for his ability to see humor through pain, De Vries will delight both new readers and old in this uproarious modern masterpiece.
The Tunnel of Love
is a goofy situation comedy involving suburban neighbors who know too much about each others private lives. The narrator is an upstanding commuting family man who, faced with awkward situations, plays sick, has small fits of rage, or babbles something inappropriate and/or witty. Like the author, he works on cartoons published in a New York magazine, and uses humor to deal with stress. The plot includes an officious lady employed by an adoption agency, and the confused identities of babies. A pointed satire of suburban life, it is also a retro, lively romp, and more cheerful than some of the De Vriess later novels set in this world.
Reuben Reuben is set in mid 1950s suburbia in Connecticut and starts out being told from the point of view of a grumpy but corruptible chicken farmer. The noveland#8217;s second part recounts what happens when a womanizing poet from Wales (clearly Dylan Thomas) visits this new-to-him world of tidy lawns and cocktail parties and liberated lady poets.and#160; In the final third, a British poet/agent named Mopworth continues the story of the confused suburban literati. Fast-paced, devastating, energetic, and laugh-out-loud funny, it also has a manic note to it, as if the author were Scheherazade-like; being compulsively entertainingand#151;scrambling to amuse the reader with stories and jokes lest serious questions arise.
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.
Table of Contents
A Hard Day at the Office
Slice of Life
Flesh and the Devil
Mud in Your Eye
Afternoon of a Faun
Interior with Figures
Every Leave That Falls
A Crying Need
In Defense of Self-pity; or, Prelude to Lowenbriiu
The High Ground; or, Look, Ma, I'm Explicating
The Independent Voter at Twilight
The Conversational Ball
Adventures of a People Buff
Requiem for a Noun; or, Intruder in the Dusk
The House of Mirth
Till the Sands of the Desert Grow Cold
From There to Infinity
Touch and Go
You and Who Else?
Double or Nothing
Journey to the Center of the Room
Different Cultural Levels Eat Here
The Man Who Read Waugh
The Art of Self-dramatization; or, Forward from Schrecklichkeit
The Children's Hour; or, Hopscotch and Soda
The Irony of It All
Laughter in the Basement
Part of the Family Picture
You Know Me Alice
A Walk in the Country; or, How to Keep Fit to Be Tied
The Last of the Bluenoses
Scones and Stones
James Thurber: The Comic Prufrock
Exploring Inner Space