Ben's Reviews > Bullet Park

Bullet Park by John Cheever
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's review
Nov 22, 2010

it was amazing
Read from November 15 to 22, 2010

I have to laugh at the lurid come-on printed on the first page of my 1988 Bantam paperback of this book: "HAVE YOU EVER COMMITTED A MURDER?" Anyone who buys this book hoping for a gruesome "there's a killer in all of us" potboiler is destined for disappointment.

However, if they're open to it, they might find something infinitely more interesting. "Bullet Park," like most great books, establishes itself in the first line: "Paint me a small railroad station then, ten minutes before dark." As soon as I read that I knew I was going to love the book. A clean, artful and disorienting sentence. Who's talking? Who's listening? Who's painting? It is Cheever's gleeful refusal to answer any of these questions that carries "Bullet Park."

The novel is at once digressive, non-linear, and barreling along with the momentum of one of those trains that carry Eliot Nailles into the city every day. It presents a much more nuanced and complex portrait of suburbia than we are used to getting (take, for example, the well-intentioned but lazily written "Mad Men"), even down to the structure of its narrative which to me resembles the winding lanes and culs-de-sac of a housing development. Cheever shows the human race a fundamental respect by sketching every character, no matter how ripe for suburban convention, as capable of deep wells of emotion and weirdness.

Most importantly, it is rendered in disciplined but gorgeous prose, and the author seems to be writing with the freedom that comes from having no other goal than to satisfy yourself. That's the only way that something this bizarre and excellent comes into the world.
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Comments (showing 1-3)

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message 3: by Shayda (new) - added it

Shayda Makes me want to read it!

message 2: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Shayda wrote: "Makes me want to read it!"

Cool, I hope you like it.

message 1: by Payton (new)

Payton Lin So I just read "Goodbye, My Brother," and i was looking up information on the author when i stumbled upon an obscure pop-culture reference: There's a Seinfeld episode called "The Cheever Letters," which i never fully understood until now!

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