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John Cheever quotes Showing 31-60 of 148

“She perceived vaguely the pitiful corruption of the adult world; how cruel and frail it was, like a worn piece of burlap, patched with stupidities and mistakes, useless and ugly, and yet they never saw its worthlessness.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, "I drank too much last night." You might have heard it whispered by the parishioners leaving church, heard it from the lips of the priest himself, struggling with his cassock in the vestiarium, heard it from the golf links and the tennis courts, heard it from the wildlife preserve where the leader of the Audubon group was suffering from a terrible hangover. "I drank too much," said Donald Westerhazy. "We all drank too much," said Lucinda Merrill. "It must have been the wine," said Helen Westerhazy. "I drank too much of that claret.”
John Cheever
“Oh, what can you do with a man like that? What can you do? How can you dissuade his eye in a crowd from seeking out the cheek with acne, the infirm hand; how can you teach him to respond to the inestimable greatness of the race, the harsh surface beauty of life; how can you put his finger for him on the obdurate truths before which fear and horror are powerless? The sea that morning was iridescent and dark. My wife and my sister were swimming--Diana and Helen--and I saw their uncovered heads, black and gold in the dark water. I saw them come out and I saw that they were naked, unshy, beautiful, and full of grace, and I watched the naked women walk out of the sea.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“I have spent considerable of my leisure time in this past year in the improvement of my mind but I find that much of it has been spent extremely foolish and that walking in the pasture at dusk with virtuous, amiable and genteel young ladies I experience none but swineish passions. I commenced to read Russell’s Modern Europe sometime last summer.”
John Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle
“The secret of 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.”
John Cheever, Bullet Park
“Grief was for the others; sorrow and pain were for the others; some terrible mistake had been made.”
John Cheever, Bullet Park
“It was still mild when they walked home from the party, and Irene looked up at the spring stars. "How far that little candle throws its beams," she exclaimed. "So shines a good dead in a naughty world.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“His life was not confined and the delight he took in this observation could not be explained by its suggestion of escape.”
John Cheever, The Swimmer
“Agnes Shay had the true spirit of a maid. Moistened with dishwater and mild eau de cologne, reared in narrow and sunless bedrooms, in back passages, back stairs, laundries, linen closets, and in those servants' halls that remind one of a prison, her soul had grown docile and bleak...Agnes loved the ceremonies of a big house. She drew the curtains in the living room at dark, lighted the candles on the table, and struck the dinner chimes like an eager altar boy. On fine evenings, when she sat on the back porch between the garbage pails and the woodbins, she liked to recall the faces of all the cooks she had known. It made her life seem rich.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“He was not a practical joke nor was he a fool but he was determinedly original and had a vague and modest idea of himself as a legendary figure.”
John Cheever, The Swimmer
“Fiction is meant to illuminate, to explode, to refresh.”
John Cheever
“In middle age there is mystery, there is mystification. The most I can make out of this hour is a kind of loneliness. Even the beauty of the visible world seems to crumble, yes even love. I feel that there has been some miscarriage, some wrong turning, but I do not know when it took place and I have no hope of finding it.”
John Cheever, The Journals of John Cheever
“How can a people who do not mean to understand death hope to understand love, and who will sound the alarm?”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“The music came through clearly. The new instrument had a much purer tone, she thought, than the old one. She decided that tone was most important and that she could conceal the cabinet behind a sofa. But as soon as she had made her peace with the radio, the interference began.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“She came right up to me and put her snow-white hand on my arm. "You poor boy," she murmured, "you poor boy."
I'm not a boy, and I'm not poor, and I wished the hell she would get away. She has a clever face, but I felt in it, that night, the force of a great sadness and great malice. "I see a rope around your neck," she said sadly.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“Homesickness is absolutely nothing. Fifty percent of the people in the world are homesick all the time. You don't really long for another country. You long for something in yourself that you don't have, or haven't been able to find.”
John Cheever, The Brigadier and the Golf Widow
“Fiction is experimentation; when it ceases to be that, it ceases to be fiction.”
John Cheever
“I know some people who are afraid to write a business letter because they will encounter and reveal themselves.”
John Cheever, The Journals of John Cheever
“Then there was a fine noise of rushing water from the crown of an oak at his back, as if a spigot there had been turned. Then the noise of fountains came from the crowns of all the tall trees. Why did he love storms, what was the meaning of his excitement when the door sprang open and the rain wind fled rudely up the stair, why had the simple task of shutting the windows of an old house seem fitting and urgent, why did the first watery notes of a storm wind have for him the unmistakable sound of good news, cheer, glad tidings?”
John Cheever, The Swimmer
tags: rain
“This shit about being fearless before death ain't got no quality. How could you say you were fearless about leaving the party, even in stir—even franks and rice taste good when you're hungry, even an iron bar feels good to touch, it feels good to sleep. It's like a party even in maximum security and who wants to walk out of a party into something that nobody knows anything at all about?”
John Cheever, Falconer
“The Westcotts differed from their friends, their classmates, and their neighbors only in an interest they shared in serious music. They went to a great many concerts—although they seldom mentioned this to anyone—and they spent a good deal of time listening to music on the radio. Their radio was an old instrument, sensitive, unpredictable, and beyond repair. Neither of them understood the mechanics of radio—or of any of the other appliances that surrounded them—and when the instrument faltered, Jim would strike the side of the cabinet with his hand. This sometimes helped. One Sunday afternoon, in the middle of a Schubert quartet, the music faded away altogether. Jim struck the cabinet repeatedly, but there was no response; the Schubert was lost to them forever.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“The landings were dirty and the walls were bare. This stairway brought me into the balcony, and I sat there in the dark, thinking that nothing now was going to save me, that no pretty girl with new shoes was going to cross my path in time.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“He followed her into the bathroom and sat on the shut toilet seat while she washed her back with a brush. "I forgot to tell you," he said. "Liza sent us a wheel of Brie." "That's nice," she said, "but you know what? Brie gives me terribly loose bowels." He hitched up his genitals and crossed his legs. "That's funny," he said. "It constipates me." That was their marriage then--not the highest paving of the stair, the clatter of Italian fountains, the wind in the alien olive trees, but this: a jay-naked male and female discussing their bowels.”
John Cheever, Falconer
“...the sounds next door served as a kind of trip wire: I seemed to stumble and fall on my face, skinning and bruising myself here and there and scattering my emotional and intellectual possessions. There was no point in pretending that I had not fallen, for when we are stretched out in the dirt we must pick ourselves up and brush off our clothes. This then, in a sense, is what I did, reviewing my considered opinions on marriage, constancy, man's nature, and the importance of love. When I had picked up my possessions and repaired my appearance, I fell asleep.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“Alice Malloy had dark, stringy hair, and even her husband, who loved her more than he knew, was sometimes reminded by her lean face of a tenement doorway on a rainy day, for her countenance was long, vacant, and weakly lighted, a passage for the gentle transports and miseries of the poor.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“It was a splendid summer morning and it seemed as if nothing could go wrong.”
John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever
“Weeding the peony hedge I hear the windfalls in the orchard; hear them strike the ground, hear them strike against branches as they fall to the ground. The immemorial smell of apples, old as the sea. Mary makes jelly. Up from the kitchen, up the stairs and into all the rooms comes the smell of apples.”
John Cheever
“She was his potchke, his fleutchke, his notchke, his motchke, his everything that the speech of St. Botolphs left unexpressed. She was his little, little squirrel.”
John Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle
tags: love
“Like all bitter men, Flint knew less than half the story and was more interested in unloading his own peppery feelings than in learning the truth.”
John Cheever
“Was his memory failing or had he so disciplined it in the repression of unpleasant facts that he had damaged his sense of the truth?”
John Cheever, The Swimmer


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