Monday, June 18, 2007

The Swimmer

It is 25 years ago today since John Cheever died. When I first started in bookselling I remember that we usually stocked at least three of Cheever's novels, plus an anthology of his short stories, but the the author deemed the Chekhov of the suburbs seems to have gone out of fashion. Like Richard Yates, he will probably be rediscovered. In the meantime, Cheever fans will have to trawl the internet for second-hand editions of most of his major works.

My interest in Cheever started when I watched the film adaptation of his short story The Swimmer, filmed in 1968 starring Burt Lancaster. I watched it by chance on television and was bowled over by the cinematography and Burt Lancaster's mesmerising performance. I have never understood why this film isn't more popular. If people can enjoy films like The Ice Storm and American Beauty then I'm sure that they can relate to The Swimmer.


Ms Baroque said...

To say nothing of the Sportswriter. And look at Updike and Roth, still going.

I never warmed to Cheever for ages - as you say, his books were everywhere when I was a kid - but in the end I did read the Wapshot Chronicle and loved it. He had a very particular style, Cheever, didn't he. Not smooth like Updike; a bit choppy. And darker, and funnier.

Also transfixing was his daughter Susan's memoir, Home Before Dark - essential reading I'd say, not just to understand Cheever but to understand the underside of that whole midcentury "suburban writer" thing. Fascinating.

JPS said...

John Cheever lived on the estate property of the private school I attended (his eldest son was in my class for a few years), and the model for nearly everyone he wrote about was familiar to me. The final scene in "The Swimmer" was shot at the pool on the school estate in Westechester County, NY.

I recommend his Journals (published in the US by Knopf) as some of the finest private writings of any author, and an invaluable resource not only for those interested in Cheever's work but in becoming writers themselves.

Steerforth said...

Comments like these are the main reason why I spend an hour (or more) a day blogging.

Thank you both for your recommendations - I will order them today.