Sunday, May 15, 2022

John Cheever: Complete Novels


More on Cheever! I have now finished reading John Cheever's Complete Novels, also in the Library of America edition (902 pages, plus notes and chronology). As I noted about his stories, I feel like this should count for more than one volume ... There are actually 5 novels in this compilation (in order of publication - and presentation):

  • The Wapshot Chronicle
  • The Wapshot Scandal
  • Bullet Park
  • Falconer
  • Oh What A Paradise It Seems

At times, the novels felt like short stories, and some of the characters from the novels either previously or subsequently appeared in the short stories.

I feel like the short story was Cheever's metier and real strength in writing. All of his works are "of a time and place." Because it represents both a geography and a time period with which I am familiar, it felt comfortable to me - and likely his writing was well received by "the establishment" since it was so much about them.

I am glad that I read all of his works, and have an appreciation for what he describes. 

Friday, May 06, 2022

John Cheever: Selected Stories and Other Writings - some notes

John Cheever: Collected Stories and Other Writings
 I just finished reading the Library of America's compilation of John Cheever's Collected Stories and Other Writings (1004 pages plus chronology and notes). The stories are more or less chronological in the order of publication, and are grouped by the collections in which they had appeared.

Many of the stories use characters and places which also appear in his novels - which gives a sense of continuity to his writings. He is clearly a gifted story teller. I had one friend ask (early on) if I had read "The Swimmer" (p. 726). I had not at that point, but it is an amazing story, and I commend it.

The Other Writings include works about other authors (Saul Bellow, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Malcolm Cowley) and a great little essay "Why I Write Short Stories." A sentence in that essay struck me a being very important:

"...they are read by discerning and well-informed men and women who seem to feel that narrative fiction can contribute to our understanding of one another and the sometimes bewildering world around us." (p. 996)

*Mic drop*

[In my list of books read this year, I feel like this should count for more than one volume!]

Friday, January 21, 2022

Books Read 2021

Here's the 2021 list:
    Death on Nantucket by Francine Mathews
    Ava's Man by Rick Bragg
    Home Before Dark: A biographical memoir of John Cheever by his daughter by Susan Cheever
    Tinderbox: the untold story of the Up Stairs Lounge fire and the rise of gay liberation by Robert W. Fieseler
    After the Worst Thing Happens by Audrey Vernick ARC
    Note Found in a Bottle: My life as a drinker by Susan Cheever
    Death of a Diva at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison Hurricane read
    Antiques Carry On: A Trash 'N' Treasures Mystery by Barbara Allen Hurricane read
    The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough [Special note: cover is by my friend Wendell Minor]
    The Building of the Panama Canal in Historic Photographs by Ulrich Keller
    Panama: Yesterday and Today by Sue Core
    Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous by Ernest Kurtz
    The Awakening: complete, authoritative text with biographical and historical contexts, critical history, and essays from five contemporary critical perspectives by Kate Chopin edited by Nancy A. Walker
    My name is Bill: Bill Wilson: His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous by Susan Cheever
    The Library Book by Susan Olean
    Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction by Susan Cheever
    Couples by John Updike
    The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
    Gettysburg Pamphliets
      "Gettysburg" [National Park Service Booklet, 1992]
      "The Monuments at Gettysburg" by Thosmas A. Desjardin [1997]
      "Holding the Left at Gettysburg: the 20th New York State Militis on July 1, 1863" Seward Osborne [1990]
      "On the Bloodstained Field: 130 Human Interest Stories of the Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg" by Gregory A. Coco
      "'For God's Sake, Forward!' Gen. John F. Reynolds, USA" by Michael Riley [1995] signed

Friday, July 16, 2021

Reading about Panama

Some time ago, I pulled the Road Scholar [formerly known as Elderhostel] list for their Panama Canal week-long experience.

More recently, I started reading from the list. The first book I chose was older than I expected ... Panama: Yesterday and Today by Sue Core. It was published in 1945 by North River Press. The name of the publisher still exists ... but it is definitely a different kind of publisher. [Current web site - they now focus on the writings of Eliyahu M. [Eli] Goldratt who is known as the "father of the Theory of Constraints (TOC)," a process of ongoing improvement that identifies and leverages a system’s constraints in order to achieve the system’s goals.]

I looked for biographical information about the author...and had great difficulty finding anything. WorldCat and Amazon both list a fair number of books by her, but little biographical info. I think she may also be known as Sue/Susan Oman. But that requires some further work.

On to the book ... In reading the first two chapters, I went to double check the copyright date (1945). The author's description of the way the Spanish conquistadors destroyed the existing civilizations could have been written last week (2021). She expresses great admiration for the culture which existed in the 15th Century in the Americas. She talks about the systematic destruction of that culture.

Yet, when I got to the last chapters, her descriptions of those who worked to build the canal, and the description of society is incredibly dated, and loaded with inaccurate stereotypes. It was a reminder that this was written in a particular time and place.

In between, the book was a simplified description of the building of the Canal. And, yes, if you are following my reading list, you will note that I am in the process doing some reading about the building of the Canal. All of it is in hopeful preparation for a trip (as yet unplanned) to see the Canal, and going through it.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Books Read 2020

Better late than never, I suppose ... I was updating the page with the "Currently Reading" and realized that I never posted the 2020 list. It is surprisingly short - most likely because of all the distractions of the year.

In any case, here it is:

    Widows of Eastwick by John Updike
    Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
    The Ambassador's Daughter: A Novel by Pam Jenoff Signed by the Author
    Death Over a Diamond Stud: The assassination of the Orleans Parish District Attorney by Christophrt G. Pena
    Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert ARC
    After the Worst Thing Happens by Audrey Vernick ARC
    Latitudes of Longing: a novel by Shubhangi Swarup ARC
    Utopia by Thomas More [Yes, a second time]
    A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma Signed by the Author, ARC
    Wink: a novel (Surviving Middle School with One Eye Open) by Rob Harrell YA ARC
    Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransome YAARC
    Blue Daisy by Helen Frost [J/YA] ARC
    Dear Beast by Dori Hillstead Butler, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry [graphic novel, J/YA] ARC
    The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg Signed by the Author
    Utopia by Thomas More