Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30th: John Cheever
A Month of Short Stories and Their Authors

now finished: 
Good Wives aka the second half of Little Women, ugh, by Louisa May Alcott

Almost the end of the month! It can take a lot out of a person to read a short story for each day of the month, excepting the 4th (holiday). It also makes the time pass differently for a month. I recommend such a project to you!

Today's Story:  "Reunion"
Author:  John Cheever
My Rating: B+

I'm hovering, mentally, over the grade of 'B' but for the moment rounding up, giving John Cheever the benefit of my doubt. He's another author that I should have read by now but haven't. Why haven't I? Have you read any Cheever? Have you read this story, "Reunion"?

It comes across as a kind of what's-the-point story. (Am I the only one who thinks there's been a lot of  what's-the-point to be found in this month of short stories? What does this tell us about how often short stories fail to have the thrust of novels or ever, dare I say, the great poems? And yet writers think they are good at them just because they can churn them out.) It does have a point, though, or maybe several. There is stuff in there about fathers and sons, about parents and children, about families and expectations, but you have to work out what's really going on.

Like, it might take you a bit after reading it to start asking yourself whether, in fact, the father has a club up in the sixties. Whether he was drunk, or not welcome in these establishments from previous drunkenness. Whether he's down and out. Whether this is why the mother left him. Whether he tried to see his son again...

Cheever doesn't sum it up for you. He makes you try to figure it out. Good idea on his part.

What I basically know about Cheever is that he explores different facets of humanity, including the dark side in all of us, that kind of thing. I will say this -- in choosing whether to read the next story in my book, The Best American Short Stories of the Century, or one of the stories I have left to read from the list of 14 in the original article that inspired this project, I saw that the next story in the book was by William Faulkner, and it was more than a few pages, and I just couldn't do it. Not today. It's been a long day. Faulkner takes a lot out of me. Mostly my remembrance of reading him (and trying to swear him off) in high school takes a lot out of me. It's late, and I decided to save him for tomorrow and read a short little Cheever story tonight and blog about it really quick.

Cheever might not take as much out of me right away, but he packs enough of a memorable punch in very few paragraphs that I could be affected more deeply than I yet realize by this one.

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