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Oh What a Paradise It Seems

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  1,260 ratings  ·  117 reviews
John Cheever's last novel is a fable set in a village so idyllic it has no fast-food outlet and having as its protagonist an old man, Lemuel Sears, who still has it in him to fall wildly in love with strangers of both sexes. But Sears's paradise is threatened; the pond he loves is being fouled by unscrupulous polluters. In Cheever's accomplished hands the battle between an ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published January 15th 1992 by Vintage (first published 1977)
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Joe Pantozzi A frustration of life, and a confession. A coming out of the closet that was not any surprise at all.

Maybe he had a book contract quota he had to fulf…more
A frustration of life, and a confession. A coming out of the closet that was not any surprise at all.

Maybe he had a book contract quota he had to fulfill!(less)

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Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,260 ratings  ·  117 reviews

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Jun 14, 2010 rated it liked it
might hit too close to home if you are a closeted dude who drinks a lot of polluted pond water
Mar 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This novella has everything I like about Cheever--lovely clarity of language, a knowingness about people's inner lives and yearnings, and a slight sense of the absurd. I also liked the unexpected environmental message. Hurray for the Cheever revival!
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
John Cheever does Nanowrimo, or An older Tom Hanks and a middle-age Meg Ryan and a younger Billy Crystal Should've Starred in This
Boy meets girl. She tells him over and over that he doesn't understand the first thing about women. Boy meets elevator operator in girl's building, has sex and goes fishing with him. Meanwhile, one hundred pages of supermarket checkout line freakouts, UFO sightings, Mafia hitmen, suburban angst, cocktail parties, tampered-with Teriyaki sauce, blind fortune tellers, ic
Carolyn Heinze
Jan 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: blah
Kept waiting for this story's soul to show up, but I guess it was taking a long lunch.
Betsy Robinson
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
“He skated and skated. The pleasure of fleetness seemed, as she had said, divine. Swinging down a long stretch of black ice gave Sears a sense of homecoming. At long last, at the end of a cold, long journey, he was returning to a place where his name was known and loved and lamps burned in the rooms and fires in the hearth. It seemed to Sears that all the skaters moved over the ice with the happy conviction that they were on their way home. Home might be an empty room and an empty bed to many of
Robert Wechsler
John Cheever’s last book is an odd mess of a novella, mixing the story of a rich, foolish man’s wooing of a young woman with the story of the ruining of the pond where he skates in the winter (and more, in very little space). The novella’s oddness (and Cheever’s always wonderful prose) worked for me for a long while, but Cheever did not seem as comfortable with the pond story, which became increasingly important. A most enjoyable curiosity.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, owned-books
What an odd and melancholic little book. I'm honestly not quite sure what to make of it; it was over before it began.
Mar 05, 2012 rated it liked it
"This is a story to be read in bed in an old house on a rainy night."
So begins Cheever's 1982 fable. The story is about an idyllic village ("it presented no fast food franchises of any sort"), with large mansions that "had not been reconstructed to serve as nursing homes for that vast population of comatose and the dying who were kept alive, unconscionably, through trailblazing medical invention." The village contains an equally idyllic pond, on which the hero, an older man named Lemuel Sears, e
Caterina Fake
Sep 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
I stayed up all night reading a short book by John Cheever What a Paradise It Seems which was, from what I can gather, his last.

That things had been better was the music, the reprise of his days. It had been sung by his elders, by his associates, he had heard it sung in college by Toynbee and Spengler. Things had been better, things were getting worse, and the lengthening moral and intellectual shadows that one saw spreading over the Western World were final. What a bore it had been to live in t
Jul 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 52books
This is my first book by Cheever and I meant for it to be a novella; I tend to read shorts by acclaimed authors before delving into their other longer books to get a grasp and a feeling of the author's style. Cheever did not disappoint and I had fun reading this novella. I don't know how to classify it, whether drama or mystery. It is, definitely, a slice of life novella. At times, it reminded me of the melancholic "A Single Man" (film). I was going to give it 3 stars (my "good & enjoyed it" rat ...more
Alia S
Apr 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Structurally neat and tidy, which is especially interesting given it’s a product of Cheever’s personal unraveling. (Best review says: “Might hit too close to home if you are a closeted dude who drinks a lot of polluted pond water.”)

Even with the pond, this is not quite the enviro story the Sierra Club set might get excited for when they read the jacket copy—rather, the same nostalgic New England NIMBYism you get in The Wapshot Chronicle. It works, though.
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love the way that Cheever writes. Its frankness and mystery at the same time is amazing.

This is a book about a small town, corruption, love and pollution. They don't really seem to go together, do they? But somehow, Cheever makes it work.

A short work but a good one. I am ready to reread it already.
Vel Veeter
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Most of us about my age connect John Cheever squarely to a one-off joke in Seinfeld, where George’s would-be stepfather leaves his would-be stepmother because of an exposed affair with the recently deceased John Cheever, whose personal diaries were posthumously published showing that for much of his married life he carried off affairs with men. If you’ve not read any of his fiction, it’s odd, because his novels are usually spare investigations into topics–especially this one, Falconer, and Bulle ...more
David Layton
This novella seems to be about nothing in particular. A pristine pond near a small village in upstate New York is being used as a dumping site by what perhaps might be mafiosi, and randy old man who likes to skate on the pond sets out to try to stop the dumping. The problem for me with this story is the way it is told. While the main characters are associated with the pond - our randy old timer Lemuel Sears, a woman who lives next door to family relations of the mafiosi dumping in the pond, an i ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here Cheever’s style is as distinct and remarkable as ever. The scenes he paints of suburbia are striking in their nostalgia and borderline sentimentality—which he at once reveals to the reader to be little more than a sham, leaving us with circumstances that neither the reader nor especially the protagonist desires. Cheever’s characters are utterly specific yet eerily relatable in a text that feels reminiscent of Phillip Roth’s Everyman. The fabrics with which he weaves his narrative are superm ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
A short book (100 pp.) that seems amazingly contemporary for having been written 35 or so years ago. I enjoyed it as it was not at all predictable and had some surprising twists and turns. Partly the last stand of an "old man" (not sure how old) as he navigates new relationships and a cause he thrusts himself into. Characters are developed well in a short space and I cared what would happen to them. Occasional "philosophizing" which was a little dense.
Liz Smith
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
A 100-page novelette that weaves a couple of narratives into a fascinating prescient take on an upper middle class metropolitan man and his tangles with women and others side by side with what's going on in a suburban town with an ecologic disaster. It is a hilarious and inventive page turner. John Cheever is creative and liberated with language and character. Published in 1982, it still feels relevant with the political jockeying surrounding dumping into a beloved lake in the suburban setting.
Eleanor Levine
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shannon D'Arpino
Sep 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Not sure what I just read, but I appreciated the irony. Life is ironic and confusing, Sear's reminds us of that on every page of this book. Life can seem like a paradise, but it is plagued with so many intricate pieces that bring us all together in the mess of it. What an interesting and quick read.
Alex Smith
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Vintage John Cheever, with the wonderful sense of uneasiness lying just below the surface of the banalities of modern life (a chapter set in a Wal-Mart-like store is particularly good in showing that small incident can cause the eruption of primal rage in the unlikeliest, bland settin).
Aug 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: new-in-2017
Slight, occasionally disjointed, still in many ways typical Cheever. Too much seems to resolve itself by happy coincidence, and the reader is always conscious that this is a late, incomplete work.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good novella about aging, love, lust and politics. His descriptions of people are extraordinary as always.
Sara Aye Moung
Deceptive simplicity with great depth. A treat of a novella
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-lit, fiction
Odd, disjointed. Cheever’s short stories are so magnificent, and I consistently find his novels so disappointing.
Matt Morris
You may read my review of this & other books at ...more
Shane Starling
I always wanted to read Cheever. But this, I don't know, it just seemed an ill-formed mess. The character's actions weren't believable, the plot jumbled but not with much juice. Good on him for having a crack at enviro-fiction in 1980 but I just couldn't connect with these characters and the rest of what is going on in this story.
Roger A
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first Cheever but definitely not my last. I picked it only because the cover grabbed my attention. Cute, funny, bizarre & a bit naughty. I liked it! ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Not bad at all, but at 100 pages it feels just about the right length.

Lemuel Sears feels a bit miscast as the protagonist. Although I haven't a single thing to base this on, he seems to me a stand-in for Cheever: dashing old man, still a little sexy, healthy and active, something of an intellectual and a world-traveler. He got a bit tedious. I preferred being with sweet old Betsy and Henry.

Some striking ideas showed up here and there: "He felt so lonely that when the car ahead of him signaled fo
Craig Masten
Feb 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
John Cheever's novel "Oh What a Paradise It Seems" seems to me a slight book in more than just its less than a hundred pages. I'm no expert in Cheever's writing, even though I once read all of his collected short stories and thought them entertaining enough to read all at once, but this book is full of literally wonderful unlikely sentences said by characters made out of a brilliant writer's somewhat jaundiced imagination rather than anything likely to actually happen. At least not all of it all ...more
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: america
"At the time in which I am writing," is the beginning of several key sentences in "Oh What A Paradise It Seems". Cheever has always been a great example of 'period' writing, in the sense that he depicts the trends in society. His last published work, "Paradise" seems to be a summation of this impulse, tracking the trends of 1970s and early 80s life while also looking back on the past.

I love this 'period' part of Cheever's work - actually it's the main reason I like him, combined with his sensiti
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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:

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“Another historical peculiarity of the place was the fact that its large mansions, those relics of another time, had not been reconstructed to serve as nursing homes for that vast population of comatose and the dying who were kept alive, unconscionably, through trailblazing medical invention.” 0 likes
“Lo que sentía por Eduardo era más parecido a la nostalgia que al espíritu aventurero del amor tradicional, pero no era un sentimiento menos fuerte. Comprendió que, si verdaderamente buscaba la pureza, nunca la encontraría en sí mismo.” 0 likes
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