As Cheever writes in his preface, 'These stories seem at times to be stories of a long-lost world when the city of New York was still filled with a river light, when you heard the Benny Goodman quartets from a radio in the corner stationery store, and when almost everybody wore a hat.'
This collection contains "The Enormous Radio," "The Five-Forty-Eight," "O City of Broken Dreams," "Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor," "The Season of Divorce," "The Brigadier and the Golf Widow," "The Sorrows of Gin," "O Youth and Beauty!," "The Chaste Clarissa," "The Jewels of the Cabots," "The Death of Justina," and "The Swimmer."
This special audio collection also features archival recording of the author reading, and a preface written by the author and read by his son, Benjamin Cheever.
©1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1978 John Cheever; (P)2003 HarperCollinsPublishers, Inc.
"A remarkable treat for lovers of audiobooks...The inclusion of Cheever's readings makes for a deeply personal, resonant finale to a truly superb production." (Publishers Weekly)
"If you've ever wished the characters in an Edward Hopper painting would come alive and tell their stories, then don't miss this luminous recording....An incomparable set of narrators delivers the stories with perfection." (AudioFile)
One wonders how it would be possible that an Audiobook of John Cheever's stories read by the likes of Ms. Streep and Mr. Plimpton could disappoint. Be calmed dear listener... no such disillusionment will be found here.
John CHeever's stories are sharp, surreal, funny, touching but always immediate. This fantastic collection covering his long writing life is presented by a phenomenal group of readers ... Meryl Streep, Blythe Danner, George Plimpton. Well done Caedmon!
i sort of wrote him off as a "new yorker writer" whatever that means: slick but not deep; no power. Etc. Boy was I wrong. Try The Swimmer or the Ten 48. I just downloaded the Falconer. And plan on collecting them all through the summer.
The beauty of reading John Cheever is in getting to know so many damaged characters. Each story weaves a web of hope and folly, deceit and yearning. Many of the men in these stories take solace outside their marriages, but none for the same reasons and none of those reasons is sexual. Also, Cheever has a tendency to glorify youth through similar metaphors in these stories, though it comes across more as a genuine affinity for the young rather than lazy writing. These are tales of a forgotten American past, though their settings are as mundane and tried as many novice writers. Cheever's gifts are not in his creation of a world, but instead of a worldview. His is a world filled with confusion and good intentions.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
At times I wish I could be more learned or cultured so I could *enjoy* and *appreciate* such a bleak set of stories. In those times, I wonder if I suffer as a result of my deficiencies. Maybe not. I've savored three recent phenomenal sets of stories that include within them themes with a melancholy bent: National Book Award-winning "Fortune Smiles: Stories" by Adam Johnson, "Thirteen Ways of Looking: Fiction," by Colum McCann, and "The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories," by Anthony Marra. The difference, I think, lies in whether the stories as a set reveal some glimpse of hope in humanity, some hint of redemption or forgiveness, some implication that evil has been or may be defeated in a battle of the forces--just one battle, for I don't suffer the delusion that good will conquer evil for all time, so long as humans live on this Earth.
With this collection, I just have a hard time seeing the redemptive. If this classifies me as a naive idealist or a resident of a fantasy world, then so be it.
Cheever's most famous story, "The Enormous Radio" (1947), serves to illustrate why I'm not particularly fond of this set of stories. In it, an NYC husband buys a "dark" gumwood cabinet radio (back when the radio was centerpiece furniture) for his family's 12th floor apartment despite their inability to afford it. When The Enormous Radio begins picking up conversations from others in their building, they are fascinated then shocked by some of the conversations and happenings. The wife (homemaker) becomes obsessed with a near-constant eavesdropping, which turns to fear that others can hear her family's conversations, and then becomes depressed from her steady consumption of the problems of an entire building. I won't say more about the story except that this collection to me is much like the Enormous Radio in that I get depressed hearing about others' (even fictional others') adultery, alcoholism and domestic abjection (all of these stories touch on one of these 3 areas) without a silver lining SOMEWHERE.
Don't misunderstand me. John Cheever certainly wrote the types of stories I appreciate and enjoy, including a few in this assortment. And yet, as a whole, this selection acts as quite a depressant. Oh, to be sure, these stories were likely grand in the late 40s through the early 1970s when they were written since they showed that the shiny, happy people from the City (in his early years) and the suburbs (in his later) suffering problems that Hollywood would not show on the television, in shows like "I Love Lucy," "Leave it to Beaver," "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," and "Father Knows Best."
My favorite of these collected stories is "The Sorrows of Gin," in which a pre-teen daughter named Amy watches her parents get deeper and deeper into the bottle, attending parties nearly every night and rarely having an interest in Amy or her life. Cheever could write this from experience, as a lifelong alcoholic whose relationships were decimated by his alcohol abuse. I have not read or seen a story that so distilled (pun intended) the negative effects of alcoholism on a family. I said "alcoholism," not "alcohol"--most people can drink in moderation and only occasionally; the alcoholic, for whatever reason, cannot. Here, the selfish parents are more concerned with the next party, next drink, and thus steal time, love and care from their daughter. In a way so superbly shown in the story, Amy's reaction and attempt to "save" her parents leads to an unexpected demoralization of the family unit.
The narrators of this collection are excellent actors, all of them, including Blythe Danner, Meryl Streep and the late, great Edward Herrmann.
I am not a huge short story fan but I thought maybe I would give this a listen. The stories were good but for me some of the endings felt unfinished. Maybe that was his intent.
The stories and narration were superb. Until the last two stories, which Cheever narrated. His voice wasn't the greatest.
I wish there were more collections of this quality.
There is an introduction in which John Cheever mentions that the stories get better as they go along; as his writing improved throughout his career. That may be true. For me the stories went from "I cant even finish this" to "this is boring as hell but I will listen as I browse the web."
With very little exception, these stories lack sufficient substance to merit any attention. The style is dated, devoid of any character development, and lacking in interest other than the occasional slightly ironic observation or ending. The words flow with ease but there is nothing behind them and they go nowhere.
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