Paul's Reviews > Bullet Park

Bullet Park by John Cheever
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's review
Aug 17, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: 2011
Read from August 14 to 17, 2011

What an intensely odd novel. The old adage that each novel teaches you how to read as you go doesn't really ring true here; Bullet Park shifts modes at least twice, making for an . . . uncomfortable? reading experience. Overall, it's a book that bears re-reading, once you've figured out its game. The novel opens with an odd, lyrical, tense-shifting passage that fades into a typical past-tense third-person narrative. Early on it becomes clear this is highly satirical, though this becomes a bit of a problem at times when you realize it's not particularly funny. There are also times when Cheever falls prey to the same overlyrical, narrative-choking prose that he (and I, in my own head, have) criticized Updike for, but it isn't really flagrant or sustained, thankfully. Anyway, maybe halfway through there's an abrupt shift to the first person POV of a character who up till now has been somewhat minor. By the time you're almost done with this novella-like interlude, you realize it's been a wonderful Ford/Harrison-like meditation type thing, but by then it's too late, because we shift again to the third person for a quick summing up of the story. The ending, too, is really strange. Sure, it's a satire, but the final sentence is so dripping with irony it almost feels amateur. All this said, the novel is full of great sentences/language, and it was a relatively quick read, though structurally it's pretty thin/messy. Even within the parts things seem pretty disconnected and episodic. What was the importance of Tony's being sick, other than to move things along with a bit of suspense, for example? Still, this is the first of Cheever's novels I've read and not completely despised. I'll read it again some time, now that I know what to expect. It has that old-world charm that's evidenced in his stories, though, again, his stories are much better. Cheever was not a novelist. I've said it before. Nonetheless this was interesting and worth reading.
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