Monday, March 02, 2009

Charles McGrath on John Cheever

The other thing that happened to Cheever’s reputation was that it was hijacked by revelations about his personal life. In the ’80s it began to emerge that Cheever, who was married with three children and wrote so warmly about the joys of family life, had been a disastrous alcoholic, almost drinking himself to death before miraculously recovering in the mid-’70s, and was also a closeted, self-loathing homosexual. The family initially tried to spin the news a little, but it nevertheless made the life, and not the work, the focus of attention. His became more nearly the story of a guest on “Oprah” than of a great literary artist. In 1992, a year after his extremely revealing journals were published, Cheever was even the subject of a “Seinfeld” episode in which Kramer, smoking some Cuban cigars, inadvertently burns down a cabin belonging to George’s girlfriend’s father. All that survives is a metal box containing some letters from Cheever. One of them, which the girlfriend reads aloud, says: “Last night with you was bliss. I fear my orgasm has left me a cripple. I don’t know how I shall ever get back to work. I love you madly.”
Read the article.

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