Kirstie's Reviews > Bullet Park

Bullet Park by John Cheever
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's review
Mar 29, 2012

really liked it
Read from March 27 to 29, 2012 — I own a copy

In a way, I hesitate to give this novel merely a 4 because I'm guessing that when Cheever originally wrote it in 1967, it was a great deal more astounding. Bullet Park is about a suburb of NYC where there's a very thin veneer that everything is going smoothly. The locals are suicidal, homicidal, adulterers, racist, impossibly sad, addicted to illegally prescribed medicines, TV, cigarettes and alcohol and at the end of the week they all go to Christ's Church like the good little Christians they are. In a way you feel very sorry for some of them if they were so unlikable with their tortoise shooting sense of entitlement. And, I think the point Cheever is making is that you need to look more closely at people because they just aren't as simple as they seem. Fortunately, though this point has been made multitudes of times since humans could hold pencils, he delivers in a twisted and interesting way with a commanding sense of language that helps you identify with the glimpses of these tortured moments. For some it's just how to live a life. There's no other way and there's not a huge amount of hope in the novel. Bullet Park will always exist. NYC will always exist. Homocidal maniacs that make a big hit at cocktail parties will always exist and really, what else do we have to fill the history books of America?

There is such a sadness here. There is such torment and it is thick and ripe and you can sense and feel it with all cells of your body.

Also, I really liked the bit about the cat.

Memorable quotes

pg 10 "Vital statistics? There were of no importance. The divorce rate was way down, the suicide rate was a secret; traffic casualties averaged twenty-two a year because of a winding highway that seemed to have been drawn on the map by a child with a grease pencil..."

pg. 25 "Sitting at their breakfast table Nailles and Nellie seemed to have less dimension than a comic strip, but why was this? They had erotic depths, origins, memories, dreams and seizures of melancholy and enthusiasm."

pg. 36 "The opening night seemed to him to have had the perfection of a midsummer day whose sublimity hinted at the inevitability of winter and death."

pg. 40 "One morning Tony refused to get out of bed. "I'm not sick," he said when his mother took his temperature. "I just feel terribly sad. I just don't feel like getting up."

pg. 61 "What is the pathos of men and women who fall asleep on trains and planes; why do they seem forsaken, poleaxed and lost? They snore, they twist, they mutter names, they seem the victims of some terrible upheaval although they are merely going home to supper and to cut the grass..."

pg. 79 "She wore no perfume and exhaled the faint unfreshness of humanity at the end of the day."

pg. 86 "The secret to keeping young is to read children's books. You read the books they write for little children and you'll keep young. You read novels, philosophy, stuff like that and it makes you feel old."

pg. 117 "I'm not afraid of the dark but there are some kinds of human ignorance that frighten me."

pg. 128 "All rain tastes the same and yet rain fell for Nellie from a diversity of skies. Some rains seemed to let down like a net from the guileless heavens of her childhood, some rains were stormy and bitter, some fell like a force of memory. The rain that day tasted as salty as blood."

pg. 157 "I have noticed, in my travels, that the strange beds I occupy in hotels and pensions have a considerable variance in atmosphere and a profound influence on my dreams."


pg. 159 "but wouldn't you say that I possess indisputable proof of the fact that we leave fragments of ourselves, our dreams and our spirits in the rooms where we sleep?

pg. 178=179 "The station was then being razed and reconstructed and it was such a complex of ruins that it seemed like a frightening projection of my own confusions and I stepped out into the street, looking for a bar.

pg. 187 "Outside I could hear the brook, some night bird, moving leaves, and all of the sounds of the night world seemed endearing as if I quite literally loved the night as one loves a woman, loved the stars, loved the trees, the weeds in the grass as one can love with the same ardor a woman's breasts and the apple core she has left in an ashtray. I loved it all and everyone who lived."

pg. 196 "I can't drive safely on the goddam Jersey Turnpike sober. That road and all the rest of the freeways and thruways were engineered for clowns and drunks."

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