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The Stories of John Cheever

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  13,502 ratings  ·  655 reviews
Here are sixty-one stories that chronicle the lives of what has been called "the greatest generation." From the early wonder and disillusionment of city life in "The Enormous Radio" to the surprising discoveries and common mysteries of suburbia in "The Housebreaker of Shady Hill" and "The Swimmer," Cheever tells us everything we need to know about "the pain and sweetness o ...more
Paperback, 693 pages
Published May 16th 2000 by Vintage International (first published 1978)
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Jesse This collection isn't a "complete works edition." He wrote at least 172 short stories, 61 of which are collected here. It omits, largely if not…moreThis collection isn't a "complete works edition." He wrote at least 172 short stories, 61 of which are collected here. It omits, largely if not entirely at his request, much of his earlier work (at least 50 stories pre-"The Sutton Place Story," which was first published in 1946). I think your issue will be finding one of his shorter collections that is still in print. If you must do a collection, I like The Brigadier and the Golf Widow, but I would do yourself a favor and read The Stories of John Cheever. Awards don't mean that much, but there's a reason that this collection won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award.(less)
Jim I'm a bit surprised, even disappointed by your question - but here goes - it was not cool to let on about homosexual leanings in Cheever's era -…moreI'm a bit surprised, even disappointed by your question - but here goes - it was not cool to let on about homosexual leanings in Cheever's era - especially from the mainstream blue blood east coast elites that he struggled with being a part of. Cheever's bio is quite complicated - he was one of the great authors of that period - but he did struggle with his sexuality as well as alcoholism. I suppose you would label him as bi sexual in that he certainly had relationships with many women too.... some of his stories such as Falconer have a distinct homosexual thread, as well as his last book O What a Paradise it Seems.

I don't know that you can tell an author's sexual inclinations or leanings from their writing - certainly if they don't want to show it - but many of Cheever's themes touched on the emptiness of middle class suburban living... and the mindless pretending that folks can wake from in middle age realizing they have been sleep walking thru an unhappy life. He was very much a writer of that time - I hope you get a chance to read more of his works. (less)

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4.27  · 
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Kim-kers
Jun 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Try reading John Cheever all summer and working at a country club. That'll mess with you.
Perry
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
“You betta check yo’self before you wreck yo’self.”
Da Ali G


I'd appreciate these stories more, I'm sure, if I could see the silver lining in sadness, broken lives and shattered dreams. I loved three story collections from a few years ago which also had a melancholy bent:Fortune Smiles: Stories by Adam Johnson, Thirteen Ways of Looking: Fiction by Colum McCann, and The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories by Anthony Marra.

For me, the difference of these three from Cheever's collected stories-taken
...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
John Cheever is a brilliant raconteur – one of my most favourite. He excellently knows the stuff our lives are made of.
Although this entire anthology is a gold mine, The Swimmer and The Day the Pig Fell into the Well seems to be my preferred nuggets.
This is not an imitation, she thought, this is not the product of custom, this is the unique place, the unique air, where my children have spent the best of themselves. The realization that none of them had done well made her sink back in her chair.
...more
Jacob
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
October 2009
Ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.
I'm not a very good student of History. I haven't read Herodotus, or Thucydides, or the other great classical historians. But I did see 300, and I spent about five minutes on Wikipedia, so I know a little about the Battle of Thermopylae. There's a monument there, at the site of the battle, with a neat little epitaph in Greek (see above) which, according to one translation, says:
Go tell the Spartans,
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
These stories are primarily about people who suck, but who somehow manage to maintain the appearance of people who don't suck. Eventually, they push their luck and are exposed. Then all the neighbors gossip about them, because it's better to keep the focus on the suckers who've been found out and hope no one finds out you suck just as bad, or worse.

So why am I giving five stars to a collection of stories about people who mostly suck? Because John Cheever DOESN'T suck. He absurdifies common emot
...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading this book for 18 months. This isn't the kind of book you just grab and set down and read from cover to cover just like I wouldn't think most people would grab the collected works of Shakespeare and read it one brilliant play after brilliant play. I have enjoyed having Cheever by my bedside always available when I needed a break from my other reading endeavors. Cheever is one of those writers that equally encourages me to write and at the same time convinces me that I have no ...more
Alison
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We read Cheever not because we love stories about the suburbs, but because Cheever shows us that a wild imagination can’t be bound even by the suburbs. We enjoy the quality of observation, the dialogue, the air-tight construction (and what he teaches us about form both in every example and over the course of the collection), but we read him for those moments when his stories take wing to escape cliche, banality, and the mundane.

A few more thoughts on Cheever:
http://alisonkinney.com/2014/07/01/jo
...more
Annelies
I have been reading the short stories now for a long time. I'm not finished yet but sometime I will because they are so good. The stories are placed in New England or New York. There doesn't happen much in the stories on first sight ( I mean not a lot of action) but they are focused on the relations between people. Characterisation, conversation, exploring the relation between people... that's what it's all about. And Cheever is a master in it.
Betsy Robinson
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
August 22, 2015

As predicted (see earlier two posts, below), it took me months to finish this masterpiece. To reiterate earlier comments, I read from front to back as well as back to front. Not the best idea, it turns out, because the strongest stories are not in the middle. I'm adding this note for two reasons:

First, I googled the one story in sixty-one that I didn't think worked, and I found a wonderful New Yorker piece by Brad Leithauser about Cheever's style and turn of phrase. I was a dram
...more
W.B.
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This author would be in my top twenty list of all time masters of the short story....I like a lot of "uncool" authors like Cheever, Hawthorne, Carver....these are authors I read decade in, decade out, and keep coming away with new experiences, thoughts, the whole palimpsestic layering which is life....so many books and authors achieve a fashionable moment...but I think it's obviously timeliness AND timelessness that have to be achieved to really merit that overused term "masterpiece"...or whatev ...more
Dan
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Stories of John Cheever

John Cheever won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer for this collection in 1979. He died in 1982 at the age of seventy.

Cheever’s stories are full of soul searching and the polarities that exist in both our mind and our outward behaviors. Some of his symbolism, I am certain, goes over my head but his stories are usually easy to follow. Both his writing style and characters are usually tempered — there are only a few moments of over the top drama. Sometimes h
...more
Duffy Pratt
Apr 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book starts with a man who almost kills his brother, mainly because he misunderstands the brother. It finishes with a wife who poisons her husband and gets away with it. Cheever writes like an entomologist - his characters are beetles and butterflies who he skewers with a pin before fastening them to the page. But Cheever doesn't seem to have any love for his bugs. Rather, if he feels much of anything for them, he tends to despise them. Often, when they are not thinking about killing one an ...more
Stef Smulders
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
John Cheever the best American short story writer of the 20th century. Not IMHO. I already did not like his novel Falconer and the best stories in this collection are entertaining yes, but there are equally many that do not make sense to me. I read that the author never planned what he wrote, just let it happen, following his intuition. The result is that half of the stories lack direction, contain digressions that lead nowhere and a lot of loose threads are kept lying around. The stories set in ...more
Hannah Garden
Dec 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Dear Mr. Cheever,

While it is unfair 0f me t0 put y0ur b00k 0n my "read" shelf when in fact I 0nly read ab0ut 400 0ut 0f 693 pages, I feel the time has c0me f0r us t0 part.

Y0u are n0t f0r me, Mr. Cheever, th0ugh I tried. Y0u never break 0pen the hearts 0f y0ur characters, which leaves me irritable and half-satisfied. I keep waiting t0 turn the page 0n s0mething m0ment0us, s0mething that will cause my little spirit t0 rise 0r sink with dreadful, unst0ppable m0ti0n.

At best, Mr. Cheever, y0u caused
...more
Aldrin
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Aldrin by: 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award, 1981 National Book Award
Note: The following is not a review of the entire collection. Rather, it's of one of the stories, probably the shortest, in the collection. This story alone, in my view, merits a five-star rating, representative of the rest.

Reunion by John Cheever

The New Yorker Fiction Podcast couldn't have chosen a better specimen of short fiction for its inaugural episode. Aired on May 3, 2007, and hosted by The New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman, the episode featured Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Fo
...more
Jason Pettus
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

As a general rule, it can be said that the newer an artistic movement, the more difficult it is to fully understand it, because of a lack of both historical distance and "how it really happened" stories regarding important turning points; given this, then, I suppose it's safe to call Postmodernism, history
...more
ALLEN
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Before John Cheever started publishing his novels in the late 1950's, he made a good living selling short stories to the NEW YORKER and other prominent periodicals of the day. Even after his novels started appearing, Cheever still wrote and added to the volume of his now-legendary short stories. Cheever's stories were almost always immediately saleable, and here we have the best of the best: "The Enormous Radio," "The Brigadier and the Golf Widow," "The Swimmer," "The Country Husband" and many o ...more
Tosh
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By chance, because a friend recommended it, I watch the film 'The Swimmer. ' It destroyed me for some odd reason. It is then that I picked up "Collected Stories and Other Writings by Cheever, who was a writer I never even bothered thinking - due to me that he seemed to be a writer in a very boring time in U.S. literary contemporary history. Boy was I wrong. He's an incredible writer, and his short stories are like knife stabs in an opened wound. The first story I read was "The Swimmer," because ...more
Jason
Dec 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In the same vein as Updike and precursor to the "dirty-realism" of Carver, Cheever betrays our expectations by presenting a class of people that on the surface of things have life together. Through unpretentious plots and simple syntax, he stuns his readers by revealing catastrophic and devastating results in otherwise innocuous scenarios. It is almost a form of voyeurism the way he reveals the reality behind our neighbors closed doors. A phenomenal author and unique, revealing perception of Ame ...more
Andy
Jul 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Where the hell have I been, this guy's a fucking genius. "Torch Song" is amazing, "The Chaste Clarissa" is hysterical, and the asshole elevator boy on Xmas day story has to be read to be believed. Cheever's sense of deadpan humor is sharp as a knife, "The Superintendent" being a great example. I'm only on page 200 but this is pure fucking gold.
Judy
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judy by: Tajma Haller
Its pretty amazing but this book kept me interested for all 1004 pages of writing. I agreed to read this book as a buddy read with my friend, Tajma. (Don't read this, Tajma, but I really expected I wouldn't like it!) Surprise, surprise. I loved most of Cheever's short stories, preferring his mid-career stories to the later years. I didn't care for his essays in the back of the book much - I believe he writes fiction much better. This is how much I loved this book: I can't pick a favorite story. ...more
Taylor
Jun 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who has ever lived in the suburbs or wanted to live in the suburbs
No one captures the imperfections of suburban, white collar, white bread America like Cheever does. No one. Well, especially in the North. If O'Connor is the Queen of South Suburbia, Cheever is the King of North Suburbia.

"The Swimmer," of course, is his pièce de résistance in this collection, and with good reason - I've been in love with unreliable narrators since. "The Five-Forty-Eight" is another favorite of mine, as is "The Geometry of Love" (loved it so much it's where my AIM screen name com
...more
Tony
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cheever, John. COLLECTED STORIES AND OTHER WRITINGS. (2009). *****. Timed to come out at about the same time as the biography written by the editor of this volume, Blake Bailey, this is a comprehensive collection by the Library of America. It also has a companion volume that collects Cheever’s novels that you will be seeing on these pages someday soon. In addition to the stories that have been previously collected in “The Stories of John Cheever,” (1978), which I have in my collection, this volu ...more
AC
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This book contains some of the most gorgeous and affecting writing n modern English. Though, admittedly, not all of the stories appealed to me (and some certainly are dated), those that did were like a “stab through the heart”, as one reviewer said. The earliest story, strangely, “Goodbye, My Brother”, is actually one of the best.

For years I had dismissed Cheever as not worth reading..., as probably just another suburban Updike or Richard Yates (whom I particularly dislike). ”Instead, he turns o
...more
Nicole
This is kind of a cheater review since I didn’t finish the book (this may happen at some point, though it will not be in the immediate future), but not finishing it left me with a few things to say, so here we are.

First, I have to say that I didn’t stop reading because I don’t like the writing. Cheever can render characters content in their discontent with the best of them, and I never expected him to be so funny. I didn’t mark many quotes, but here are two just for kicks:

“When you get to be a
...more
Dan
Apr 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of the short story
Recommended to Dan by: Aaron
The stories in this book were inconsistent. The best were masterpieces of the short fiction form. The worst seemed like quick hack jobs to make a deadline. I was irresistibly drawn to the Shady Hill stories, of which there were far too few. On the other hand, I frequently wished that he would get over his Italian obsession and write about New York again. He seemed to have been at his best when writing conservatively with an experimental flair ("The Swimmer" is the perfect example). I do think th ...more
Robert
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
From "Goodbye, My Brother"

"Oh, what can you do with a man like that? What can you do? How can you dissuade his eyes 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
...more
Arhondi
Oct 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Cheever's short stories are peeling away at the decay of American suburbia. The dreams, desires and small victories and defeats of every day life make up for a bitter sweet, strong collection of stories, the best of which I did not think was The Swimmer, although obviously it's still a great one. His ability to highlight the cracks on our surface is admirable and all the characters are human and humane. A good read.
Tim
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I read this in bits and pieces over a year and a half, and I'm glad I read it that way. If I had tried reading it straight thru I would have tired of Cheever, or at least of his recurring theme of the hidden heartaches of upper middle class suburbia. I first picked this up when I was 19 and can remember reading it on a bus to Cape Cod, but I was not emotionally ready for it at that time. During this reading I developed an appreciation and respect for Cheever's elegant prose style and his depicti ...more
Richard
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: so-glad-i-read
This is actually my second time through this book, though the first time, years upon years back, I hadn't given it the attention I should have. I knew some Cheever classics, but my attetnion span in getting through this tome was not my best fresh out of graduate school, so this time I gave it a 7-month try to let me be ready to sit down and work at Cheever's pace through these stories. Cheever was one of the kings of suburban misery, but mostly in the latter half of this collection. Cheever hims ...more
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Tackling the Puli...: The Stories of John Cheever (John Cheever, 1979) 54 48 Mar 16, 2018 07:08PM  
What are your top seven John Cheever stories? 4 26 Feb 01, 2018 07:55PM  
What did you get out of "The Common Day"? 3 24 Sep 16, 2017 08:26AM  
The greatest American short story writer of the 20th century? 34 576 Feb 17, 2017 02:46AM  
What should I read first? 1 9 Apr 06, 2016 02:19AM  
can someone please help.. with a title or author?! 2 43 Aug 16, 2012 08:32PM  

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John Cheever was an American novelist and short story writer, sometimes called "the Chekhov of the suburbs" or "the Ovid of Ossining." His fiction is mostly set in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the suburbs of Westchester, New York, and old New England villages based on various South Shore towns around Quincy, Massachusetts, where he was born.

His main themes include the duality of human nature:
...more
“She cried for herself, she cried because she was afraid that she herself might die in the night, because she was alone in the world, because her desperate and empty life was not an overture but an ending, and through it all she could see was the rough, brutal shape of a coffin.” 22 likes
“I was here on earth because I chose to be.” 22 likes
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