Discussion Topics

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 134

John Cheever’s accounts of his life and circumstances are sometimes at odds with the facts. Is prevarication a habit of the major characters in his stories?

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Cheever lamented the loss of such values as “serenity” and “tradition” in modern life. Are these losses important themes in his fiction?

Examine the structure of The Wapshot Chronicle with particular attention to its framing Fourth of July settings.

Decorum involves such qualities as propriety and good taste. Is the “decorous surface” of Cheever’s prose a deception or does it reflect values affirmed in his stories?

Cheever called Falconer “the sum of my experiences.” Is this one of his misleading statements or does it seem to ring true?

Judging from the evidence presented here, do you think that critics generally have understood Cheever’s work properly?

Other Literary Forms

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 141

Believing that “fiction 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,” John Cheever devoted himself to the writing of stories and novels. Although he kept voluminous journals, he wrote only a handful of essays and even fewer reviews, and only one television screenplay, The Shady Hill Kidnapping, which aired January 12, 1982, on the Public Broadcasting Service. A number of Cheever’s works have also been adapted by other writers, including several early short stories such as “The Town House” (play, 1948), “The Swimmer” (film, 1968), “Goodbye, My Brother” as Children (play, 1976), and “O Youth and Beauty,” “The Five-Forty-Eight,” and “The Sorrows of Gin” (teleplays, 1979). Benjamin Cheever has edited selections of his father’s correspondence, The Letters of John Cheever (1988), and journals, The Journals of John Cheever (1991).

Achievements

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A major twentieth century novelist, John Cheever has achieved even greater fame as a short-story writer. He published his first story, “Expelled,” in The New Republic when he was only eighteen. Reviewers of his first collection, The Way Some People Live, judged Cheever to be a promising young writer. Numerous awards and honors followed: two John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation grants (1951, 1961), a Benjamin Franklin award for “The Five-Forty-Eight” (1955), an O. Henry Award for “The Country Husband” (1956), election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1957, elevation to the American Academy in 1973, a National Book Award in 1958 for The Wapshot Chronicle (1957), the Howells Medal in 1965 for The Wapshot Scandal (1964), cover stories in Time (1964) and Newsweek (1977), the Edward MacDowell Medal in 1979, a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle award (both in 1978), an American Book Award (1979) for The Stories of John Cheever, and the National Medal for Literature (1982). Cheever’s achievements, however, cannot be measured only in terms of the awards and honors that he has received (including the honorary doctorate bestowed on this high school dropout), for his most significant accomplishment was to create, with the publication of The Stories of John Cheever, a resurgence of interest in, and a new respect for, the short story on the part of public and publishers alike.

Other literary forms

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 260

After the publication of his first fictional piece, “Expelled,” in the October 10, 1930, issue of The New Republic, more than two hundred John Cheever stories appeared in American magazines, chiefly The New Yorker . Fewer than half that...

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