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John Lanchester

26 October 1989
The Letters of John Cheever 
edited by Benjamin Cheever.
Cape, 397 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 224 02689 5
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Mary McCarthy 
by Carol Gelderman.
Sidgwick, 430 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 283 99797 4
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The company she keeps 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 246 pp., £4.50, October 1989, 0 297 79649 6
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... In 1964, Time published a profile of John Cheever which, in a sub-heading, described him as ‘The Monogamist’. Subsequent events have proved that not to have been the fact-checkers’ finest hour. In 1984, two years after his death, Susan Cheever published Home before Dark, a memoir which portrayed her father, whose public image was that of an impeccably upper-middle-class monogamist suburban WASP, as a promiscuously bisexual alcoholic ...
9 January 1992
John CheeverThe Journals 
Cape, 399 pp., £16.99, November 1991, 0 224 03244 5Show More
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... on lavatory walls. This seems to be the message of ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Up-harsin’, one of John Cheever’s loopy, luminescent, triumphant later stories. The narrator, returning to America after a long absence, enters a stall in the men’s room at Grand Central Station, and there, etched into the marble partition (‘it might have been a giallo antico, but ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges

6 January 2011
Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... and the letters are at their most tender when he’s dealing with people like Berryman or John Cheever – ‘you were engaged, as a writer should be, in transforming yourself … I loved you for this’ – but the wives, sadly, emerge with snakes for hair. In fact he gives them the same sort of critical dermabrasion he gives to the critics, searing their ...

Tang and Tone

Stephen Fender: The Federal Writer’s Project’s American epic

18 March 2004
Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writers’ Project 
by Jerrold Hirsch.
North Carolina, 293 pp., £16.50, November 2003, 0 8078 5489 1
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... such as Nelson Algren (the director of its Illinois branch), Conrad Aiken, Saul Bellow and John Cheever, had already begun to make their reputations. Studs Terkel would find his calling when the FWP sent him out onto the streets of Chicago to collect oral history. Most striking was the impetus given to the careers of black authors: Zora Neale ...

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