John Cheever American Literature Analysis
“Fiction is not cryptoautobiography,” Cheever warned with the insistence of a man either with a mission or with something to hide. Posthumously published biographical materials make it abundantly clear that Cheever’s fiction follows Cheever’s life rather closely but never deductively. “Fiction,” he claimed, “is our most intimate and acute means of communication, at a profound level, about our deepest apprehensions and intuitions on the meaning of life and death”; it is “our only coherent and consistent, continuous, history of man’s struggle to be illustrious.” For Cheever, then, fiction was much more a spiritual than a biographical or psychoanalytical exercise, closer to hymn and prayer than to either confession or disclosure.
His essentially affirmative vision and lyrical style are not merely and superficially willed; rather, they are earned. His description of fiction as “the bringing together of disparate elements” places as great an emphasis on the apparent randomness of contemporary experience as it does on the elusive wholeness of being for which his characters yearn. “The most useful image I have today,” Cheever noted in 1959, “is of a man in a quagmire, looking into a tear in the sky.” One year later, Cheever would flatly assert that life in the United States in 1960 “is hell.”
This apprehensiveness is every bit as much cultural as personal and could, Cheever felt, be attributed to a “loss of...
(The entire section is 6630 words.)
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