Water Music

Allon White

  • Oh what a paradise it seems by John Cheever
    Cape, 99 pp, £5.50, July 1982, ISBN 0 224 02930 4
  • Collected Short Stories by John Cheever
    Penguin, 704 pp, £4.95, March 1982, ISBN 0 14 005575 4
  • So long a Letter by Mariama Bâ, translated by Modupé Bodé-Thomas
    Virago, £5.50, August 1982, ISBN 0 86068 295 1
  • A joke goes a long way in the country by Alannah Hopkin
    Hamish Hamilton, 157 pp, £7.95, July 1982, ISBN 0 241 10798 9

One time in four, and usually to everyone’s surprise, John Cheever’s heroes spring a wry and furtive victory over disappointment. Cheever is irresistible in describing those delicious moments of triumph when a dogged loser suddenly strikes a home run – like Farragut’s escape from the penitentiary at the end of Falconer. Cheever’s fiction is full of the kind of episode in which the amiably incompetent warm our hearts with an unexpected success, and Oh what a paradise it seems is no exception. A short book, it develops two episodes in the life of Lemuel Sears, one of those gentle, even-tempered and articulate male characters who often figure as Cheever’s protagonists. Lemuel Sears is old, but still sprightly enough to embark on a new love affair, and still doughty enough to tackle the local mobsters when they turn the town beauty spot (Beasley’s pond) into a municipal dump.

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