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Bullet Park

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,264 ratings  ·  199 reviews
Bienvenidos a Bullet Park, un universo en donde hasta sus habitantes más intachables pueden sentirse aterrorizados por el simple acto de mirarse al espejo. En ese ambiente asfixiante, John Cheever narra la azarosa intersección de las vidas de dos hombres: Eliot Nailles, un buen hombre que ama con devoción a su mujer ya su h ijo, y Paul Hammer, el hijo bastardo que, tras añ ...more
Paperback, 243 pages
Published February 28th 2006 by Emece Editores (first published 1967)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  2,264 ratings  ·  199 reviews

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Adam Dalva
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinarily bizarre novel with some gorgeous, hilarious sections of writing. I prefer THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLE, which has all the weirdness of this book with more interesting characters. Try to avoid the back jacket copy, or any summary, because the lesson here is in the (insane) delay of plot - it's a 220 page preamble, then 20 brief pages of action, and if you know what's coming it will take away most of the fun. The first half of the preamble belongs to Nailes, and is told in a roving 3rd pe ...more
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american
So Very Sixties

A bizarre book full of absurdities and unfathomable details of travel and personal description.

An upper middle class New York suburb is chosen by an apparent psychopath for the location of a senseless murder. The target is the son of a local resident, undistinguished except for his smug racism, boredom and moderate alcohol and drug dependency. The motive appears to derive from a suggestion by the murderer's estranged mother that "...nothing less than a crucifixion..." will wake t
Steven Godin

Somewhere between Raymond Carver, Richard Yates, and American Beauty lies Bullet Park. Well, that's partly true, but you'd also have to add in a colder tone, more strange behaviour, some existentialism, and even a little mystery too. Whilst this wasn't by any means a bad novel, I felt Cheever's Brilliant short story 'The Swimmer' did more for me in just a few pages than this did in roughly 250. This felt far too illusive for me. It takes on some big themes that I just didn't feel were explored p
Aug 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-reading
Well, if you want to learn the rules of how novels work, it's good to read ones that won't (or can't) play by those rules. Watching Cheever's instincts chafe against the novel form, and watching him accept that and willfully embrace the resulting weirdness, is pleasurable. It would be maybe awful if he didn't write everything with such exquisite style. But every sentence is musical, though the totality is much stranger. I like it.

What he seems to be at odds with is the novelist's shameless repe
Nov 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have to laugh at the lurid come-on printed on the first page of my 1988 Bantam paperback of this book: "HAVE YOU EVER COMMITTED A MURDER?" Anyone who buys this book hoping for a gruesome "there's a killer in all of us" potboiler is destined for disappointment.

However, if they're open to it, they might find something infinitely more interesting. "Bullet Park," like most great books, establishes itself in the first line: "Paint me a small railroad station then, ten minutes before dark." As soon
Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Carried the paperback around with me for the three or four days I read it, sneaking reads in chairs here or cars there and lines everywhere - luxuriating in Cheever's masterful, seemingly effortless and eternally enlightening (delightful) descriptions of lounge light, thanatonic thunder, scary suburbia, mad mothers, fucked-off fathers, and, as always, alcoholism.

It would've made a great Alfred Hitchcock movie with Jimmy Stewart as Nailles and either Robert Mitchum or Cary Grant as Hammer (in th
Welcome to Bullet Park, the paradise of the American middle class. In this exemplary environment, we will be witnesses of the fateful meeting between two men: one hand, Eliot Nailles, a citizen that integrated into their community, which, despite its internal contradictions, wants his wife and his son to the happy disposition. And, on the other hand, a new neighbour, Paul Hammer, a nowhere man which, after half a lifetime of wandering, decides to buy a house in Bullet Park. Coinciding with the a ...more
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Most people I know really don't like this book. I read it at a time when I sort of identified with the central agonist...well one could argue whether the father or the son was central...but I was a teenager and similarly weird. The novel has a real redemptive (almost Biblical) beauty in the way the father breaks through societal, cultural, etc. conditioning....well there was a spoiler....soz! me, this is another book (like, say, Franny and Zooey, which I ADORE) in that category where if yo ...more
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 a ...more
James Tingle
I think this was the first John Cheever book that I read and I still feel dazed and confused by it, whenever I see it sat there in my room. It must be the oddest novel I've read that's about seemingly normal, everyday life and suburbia. I've read a few books by Cheever now and you can just tell reading his works that he was an unusual man, merely from the kind of things he throws up in his writings. No other writer I can think of can turn an everyday event into some beguiling, mystical, head-sc ...more
Andrew Larrison
Sep 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been meaning to read Cheever all my adult life, but didn't expect to like him -- suburban malaise is not a subject I need to spend a lot more time exploring. Bullet Park just goes to show that subject matter has little bearing on your enjoyment when the author is capital-G Great. This book is exactly what I feared about Cheever: set in a wealthy Connecticut bedroom community, the protagonist is a salaryman addicted to amphetamines, the teenage son is bedridden with depression, the wife is ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Cheever's least successful novel is my least favorite one. Set in the late 1960's at the height of the "God, how I hate Suburbia" trend in American letters, it alternates between oddly shafted suburban satire (a French teacher has a sexy mouth because of working through "strenuous French vowels"), and implied violence, but despite its title, most of BULLET PARK's violence is psychic anguish. This alone is not un-Cheever, but the meandering plot is.

BULLET PARK works best for completionists
The structure of this book reminded me of Franny & Zooey (Salinger), in that there were sections in different styles and from different perspectives. I wonder if the author thought through the entire book before writing, though, since the last 100 pages just barely necessitate the first 100. The writing is more modern than I expected, having never read Cheever before. I wish the author had spent more time with the story as opposed to 85% on character background / development, but it wasn't a ter ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grotesquely funny and full of bizzare symbolism. The part in which Nailles drinks rainwater scooped out of an urn at the cemetery to swallow the pill he's just bought from his pusher must be my favourite image. Come on, that's just genius! Why haven't I bloody read Cheever before?!
Jan 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Well. This is random. I struggled at times to get my head around Cheever's flitting between times and characters, but that was nothing compared with my struggle to understand what on earth point he was trying to make. Wholesomeness is boring but there's nothing much we can do about it? People hurt and love for all sorts of reasons, yet with neither rhyme nor reason? I mean, his tone is easy enough to decipher, but his point eludes me.

I did find much of the book very readable, and mostly enjoyed
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1993 notebook: another great American book. The mild adultery, the man sucked under the morning express, the man who knows the different sounds trees make in the wind - larch, tulip, oak. But what good does it do, he thinks? Someone has to observe the world. That's the line, the line for me.
Mary Overton
A serious, hilarious, quirky, disjointed allegory about 1960s upper-middle-class suburbs -- a spiritual story about people who have lost their connection to spirituality. Hermetic tropes include the 'magic Negro' faith-healer who lives over a funeral parlor in the slums, two alchemists with different sorts of laboratories, a fairy tale bastard raised by a rich fairy grandmother, a sacrificial first-born son, the summoning of erotic spirits, a variety of impossible-to-please 'White Goddess' women ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Great book. Part one introduces an average man, Nailles, living in an average and depressing suburb of New York. His son, Tony, becomes disillusioned with life and decides not to get out of bed. Doctors can't cure him, but an Indian spiritualist gets him excited with mantras. Part two describes a sick rich man, Hammer, who searches for happiness in a yellow room. When the room is painted, he decides to take up his mother's dream of enlightening the world by sacrificing an average WASP within a c ...more
Sep 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
Maybe I'm just over so unhappy 1950's suburbs, but I do not like this book. I am also tired of so many writers with sexual hangups.
The main thing I didn't like though, was the writing itself. When Cheever moved from one character to the next, I felt like he was never going to get back to the main story. He would go on and on about tertiary characters and we'd never really hear of them again.
This is also one of those books that 'hurries up and ends'. On one page I'm still at the build up and the
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
So much was said about Cheever influencing Mad Men that, once the series was over, I decided to read something of his. 'Bullet Park’ was chosen at random. In the first pages, I could see each scene being shot following Matthew Weiner's script. But where Mad Men is subtle, Cheever is out there — it would be like reading between the lines of Mad Men's cruelty, violence, sexuality and awkwardness. And where Mad Men is always perfect in form and style, Cheever is like a bull set loose: magnific, dra ...more
Apr 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Any fans of the 60's, Mad Men, the unravelling of suburban perfection
There are some writers you read that just connect to your soul in the space of a few words. J.D. Salinger did that to me in Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories. Jack Kerouac did that to me in Vanity of Duluoz and The Dharma Bums. And John Cheever does that to me pretty much always. He is the simple, lovable, yet highly complex rogue inside all of us.

Who couldn

Seriously, who couldn't instantly like someone with a smile like that?

This is, incidentally, my second reading of Bullet Park. Quite like Catcher i
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
The last paragraph of this Rumpus review of Bullet Park pretty much nails it. Oprah's been off the air for a year now, but look at what books our culture prizes these days and it's clear we still live in an age where the greatest endorsement a book can get is from TV. There's no question that our highest literary praise is still reserved for all that is slick, polished, and cinematic.

I'm not saying that's necessarily bad: The Art of Fielding and The Rules of Civility are two refined and flawles
Aug 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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 ...more
Jeffrey Howard
Cheever draws up a story of ordinary characters playing out a slightly comical story. A teenage boy stays in bed for weeks (not necessarily sick) until a "holy man" shows up at the house and inexplicably "heals" him. A man obsesses over a room in a stranger's house falling in love with it, holding it as his only place of quiet and happiness--then settles into the suburbs to murder the boy. This story isn't remotely about murder.

His characters occupy the usual "not all is as okay in the suburbs,
Jul 01, 2017 added it
Shelves: new-in-2017
Tellement bizarre. Hammer and Nailles. I mean, Jesus Christ. But not.
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: literature fans; the emotionally bothered
Shelves: fiction
It's not common that I take recommendations for reading from psychiatrists, but this was an exception. The story about the upper-middle-class Nailles who manages to survive what initially looks like a "neighborly" encounter with Mr. Hammer, is compelling even if you're not upper-middle-class, a drug addict, a father or, for that matter, male. Despite what my pschrinck said at the time, I didn't find all that much to identify with in this book (except for Nailles decreasing hold on self-control), ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I've been a goodreads delinquent for some time now -- I'll admit that. Then I read Bullet Park, and I remembered how wonderful Cheever's novels could be, and I had to share it, so here I am, returned, prodigal, and feeling creatively refreshed by the twin geniuses of Paul Hammer and Elliot Nailles.

People might say that this book is about a murder, but it's not. It's about two people and the people that inhabit those people's lives. With one hand in the NY suburbs and the other in a kind of poig
Nov 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Good writing, bad ending.

I like Cheever's style. It's dry and witty. A little bitchy. In this day and age, a lot of the setup, describing a bland, suburban community with middle-aged couples living hollow lives, seems all too familiar. However, the saving grace is that you're not seeing all this from the point of view of an angst-ridden teen or a parent that somehow "sees the light," but rather the perspective switches from the antagonist (a jaded, wealthy outsider) to the protagonist (a seeming
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My goodness, what a strange, airless book. A novel, I guess, maybe, about a man who is very happy in spite of the intense and constant imposition of pain into his life; who suddenly realizes that this pain constantly imposes itself upon him, and nearly goes to pieces; and who is rescued, for the most part, through extraordinary experience that allows him to, I guess, maybe, gloss over the intense pain through a willfully invented, present-focused life-out-of-time in a suburb, as incantatory and ...more
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I picked this up at a used book sale nearly two years ago and finally had time to pick it up. Are you a fan of Mad Men? This book, set in suburban 1960s New York, could run parallel to Don and Betty Draper. It’s dry, dark humor which gets more creepy as it goes on. It’s the story of two men, with the last names of Hammer and Nailles, with a climactic interaction at the end. The story of how in that time and place, a man’s duty and a man’s desires were at great odds. It’s a quick read, and I can’ ...more
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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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