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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  7,894 ratings  ·  430 reviews
Stunning and brutally powerful, Falconer tells the story of a man named Farragut, his crime and punishment, and his struggle to remain a man in a universe bent on beating him backwards into childhood. Only John Cheever could deliver these grand themes with the irony, unforced eloquence, and exhilarating humor that make Falconer such a triumphant work of the moral imaginati ...more
Paperback, 211 pages
Published January 15th 1992 by Vintage (first published 1977)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,894 ratings  ·  430 reviews

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lark benobi
This is the third fourth time I've read Falconer. It's a remarkable and perfect novel. It's one sentence following the next of words that are exactly right for the moment they appear on the page, until you get to the most beautiful, hard-earned, elegiac ending of all time. The above might be hyperbole. Not very much hyperbole, though. ...more
John Cheever's late-in-life novel, Falconer begins with a declension of the penal facility called "Falconer", once a jail and then by points of redefinition, a reformatory, a federal penitentiary, a state prison, a correctional facility & even a place oddly labelled "Daybreak House", a holding tank for "2,000 miscreants" but now minus the striped suits, water torture, balls & chains and with a softball field having replaced the area where the old gallows once stood.

Among the prisoners is
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
They were free and yet they moved so casually through this precious element that it seemed wasted on them. There was no appreciation of freedom in the way they moved.
“Farragut, Farragut,” he asked, “why is you an addict?”

Ezekiel Farragut has just arrived at Falconer, a New York prison, after being convicted of killing his brother while he was high. Goodreads describes this novel as “[s]tunning and brutally powerful... [about a] struggle to remain a man in a universe bent on beating him backwa
May 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 100, 2011, famous-books, prison
Falconer Correctional Facility certainly sounds dreary and no place I’d want to spend any time, but it doesn’t seem nearly as bad as many fictional prisons. In fact, it seems pretty dull. There weren’t any beatings from brutal guards. There’s no racial tension evident. No one gets shivved or shanked. The only riot in the story actually takes place at another prison and isn’t discussed in detail. There’s no escape tunnels being dug through walls. Compared to fictional prisons like Oz or Shawshank ...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?” Genesis 4:9
God cursed Cain and sentenced him to a life of wandering.
Falconer is a modern fratricide story.
The state condemned Cain and sent him to prison.
“Long ago when they first invented the atomic bomb people used to worry about its going off and killing everybody, but they didn’t know that mankind has got enough dynamite right in his guts to tear the fucking planet to pieces.”
We’ve le
Steven Godin
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't often read prison literature, so Cheever's 'Falconer' strikes new ground for me. Just as Ken Kesey went to work in a prison to find an outlet for his vision of an alternative America, Cheever went to his local jailhouse, but the results are startlingly different. All of Cheever's beautiful obsessions - with addiction, failed marriages and sexy men - come out in this book. Farragut, a university professor and drug addict who is serving time in Falconer State Prison is the central figure o ...more
Maybe I’d like Falconer better if I had a penis.

That might seem obscene (not to mention absurd), but if you’d read this book, you’d understand that my bringing it up isn’t out of the blue. Farragut, the limp and apathetic protagonist of this novel, mentions his dick with stunning regularity. I might not mind so much but he finds a way to connect it to every anecdote, memory, and conception of himself, that it felt alienating at first and then just flat-out ridiculous. So maybe if I had a penis,
Dec 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel of bracing honesty, above all. Cheever's matter-of-fact reporting and his characters are both frank and entirely convincing. I've heard Falconer described as a tale of redemption, but frankly I found little evidence of transformation in Farragut himself. He is an egoïste in the latter part of his life, whose tastes and desires are fully formed and which he has no intention to change, though in Falconer he must learn to live with infrequent satisfaction. (His libido in particular is remi ...more
Jun 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Saul Bellow called Falconer elegant, pure, and indispensable. John Updike said it gives us back our humanity. Newsweek calls it a masterpiece. I would also like to sum it up just as succinctly, but I don't know how to spell that farting noise you can make with your armpit.

Ezekial Farragut is a wealthy upper-class heroin addict imprisoned in Falconer Prison for killing his brother. The narrative shifts back and forth between the day-to-day realities of prison life (which seem to aim for Kafkaesq
Aug 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So here, then, is a John Cheever's great penal novel. Or should I say, penile novel. Yes, yes, the pun is too obvious to be anything but unfunny. But it's just shouting from the eaves to be thrust into the spotlight.

This is primarily because on cannot turn a page without finding cocks, balls, erections, ejaculations, peckers, dicks, tumescences, foreskins, pissings, and yes, at least one anal intrusion by a phallic object.

What would I expect, I suppose, from a prison novel. I've heard that song
Stephen Durrant
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
More than forty years ago, Joan Didion wrote an important and slightly defensive review of John Cheever's"Falconer"( She argues that people with no particular minority status, even white "Episcopalians," have a right to their anxieties, particularly a sense of homelessness and nostalgia. Didion regards Ezekial Farragut, the central character of "Falconer" as a powerful and extreme expression of Cheever's concern with just such persons. Farragut is a midd ...more
Feb 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels, not-so-much
It was inevitable, I suppose, that Cheever write a prison novel (a compelling prospect, theoretically), but aside from some moments of wonderful prose, this story of an incarcerated heroin addict wallowing in the pleasurable humiliations of jailhouse eroticism came off as banal, even callow. Instead of orienting the novel firmly in its setting, the prison -- the titular Falconer -- feels more like a pretext than a context, and the characters never really emerge from their arid, rambling monologu ...more
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Falconer”, escrito em 1977, é o último romance de John Cheever e por muitos considerado a sua obra-prima.
É um livro tão duro quanto belo, límpido na sua crueza, humano e impiedoso.

Parece-me revelador o que a filha de John Cheever, Susan Cheever, afirma sobre a fase final da vida do pai, fase esta que coincide com a escrita de “Falconer”:

"For me, the end of his life is triumphant. He stops drinking. He writes what I think is his best book [Falconer, a novel about a drug addict, serving time for
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2013
There is something both unsettling and beautiful about this compact Cheever novel. A novel of punishment and redemption, Falconer is also a story of addiction, of confinement, of an introspective man moving from his isolated past to his very human present. It is hard to compare Cheever's style to anyone, but there were moments where I felt I was floating in the same literary river as O'Connor, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Percy. His prose is amazing, his imagination is sharp, and the depth of his so ...more
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Farragut, Farragut, why is you a addict?"
To me FALCONER is not just a prison novel, but a great American novel. Its themes are not always easy to take but in my opinion, it's a must-read among 20th Century American novels. John Cheever, writing out of the pain of his own life, speaks of fidelity, mortality and captivity, and sets his story in a fictional Upstate New York penitentiary in the post-Attica era. Of the four novels and one novella Cheever wrote, this is his best, and has the most to
Mr. C
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
While I enjoyed Cheever's writing (as a thing in itself), the subject matter of this particular work may be a bit "over-the-top" for more reserved / conservative / thematically sensitive readers (or somewhat age-inappropriate for folks less than 16-18). Cheever explores some interesting aspects of institutional imprisonment, drug abuse, psychology, homosexuality, and violence in such a way (and with such detail) it is difficult to imagine that Cheever is not speaking from personal experience... ...more
Pat Settegast
May 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is both inventive and conventional; it would even make a pleasant beach read. John Cheever effectively manages both a broad lyrical range and--do I dare say it?--a plot! Yes, it can be done. Falconer wrestles out many of the sordid details of a heroin addict sentenced to prison for fratricide (the gay lover, the methadone, the riots, the cat killing) with a prosody that seems somehow unattainable. And, it's not by any stretch a victim's story. Where Cheever excels is where he is able t ...more
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the story of a middle-aged, middle-class, well-educated man sentenced for the murder of his brother. In prison, he is slowly incorporated into a community of broken, angry, desperate, men. As the protagonist struggles to hold on to his humanity, Cheever invites the reader to recognize the humanity in each of these men who have been rejected by society. Cheever has an ear for dialogue and great facility with character development. This deserves 4 stars for the writing. Unfortunately, desp ...more
May 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
In the course of two years I’ve read 2 great literary prison novels. I started last year with Hard rain falling, a novel, I feel I like a little more than John Cheever’s shorter work.
Both novels deal with the same subject matter.
Suppressed homosexuality, exploration and the exploitation of life behind bars. Hard rain falling hits hard, forces you to struggle through the pain, and to be frank, it’s bleak. Cheever takes the harshness and cruel greyness of the prison system and juggles humor and tr
Betsy Robinson
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm glad I read Falconer, I admire the writing, but I don't think I will want to reread this book.

Cheever masterfully wrote men (and I do mean men, not women) in their most degraded state. Because of this, the humor, when it came, made me belly laugh, and, for that, I love the book. Degraded men stuck in a cage with nothing to lose have nothing to do but talk. And talk, they do.

I grew up near Sing Sing, which I'm guessing is the model for Falconer. Cheever, who lived near me, may have even bee
This isn’t your typical correctional facility; in fact Falconer Correctional Facility is very boring, there is nothing happening, just a bunch of lonely men trying to make it through their sentences. No brutality, no abuse and the only riot that happens in the book is just as boring as the rest of prison life. The main character; Farragut is convicted of murdering his brother; he is from a formally rich family and a drug addict. The whole book is about him and his desire for methadone; nothing e ...more
A relatively light read about a prisoner, his life behind bars and the thoughts and feelings of convicted fellons who are forced to live imprisoned. It has some deep lines and some very well constructed moments. I feel like I should've read this in english, I might have enjoyed it more. ...more
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Falconer is the prison and Farragut (fratricide, zip to ten, #734-508-32) is the convicted man.
That’s the heart of Falconer . I went into Falconer expecting a stereotypical prison yarn but instead I found a very interesting story, both in terms of narrative and form.

For almost the entire length of the novel I couldn’t quite place where it was going to go or what type of mood Cheever was going for. I would almost call the flow episodic. Farragut’s life story, which takes up large portions of
Jason Coleman
May 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm giving this passionately executed work by one of my old favorites a grumpy three stars, because I found it terribly depressing. I don't mean depressing like a powerful tragedy can be; I mean depressing like a really bad conversation with your drunk dad. Cheever did a stint in the mid-70s teaching creative writing at Sing Sing, and his book has some good details from inside the joint. Prison's dark cloud does assert itself—the inmates fraternize, but they speak only in jokes, lies, or outburs ...more
Richard Jespers
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I’ve now read four of Cheever’s five novels, I see he sets up situation after situation of comparing/contrasting brothers. And usually one has a great hatred for the other. Also read “Good-Bye, My Brother,” by chance while reading Falconer. Both hated brothers meet with violence at the hands of younger brother. In “Good-bye” the younger brother is injured but escapes unscathed. In Falconer the younger brother goes to prison for murdering his brother. In the journals Cheever speaks of his brot ...more
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This one I found in a used book store and I have had it for a few years. It was published in 1977 I believe. This is the tale of a man who goes to prison for killing his brother. It is an awakening tale and an explanation of how things were back in the 70's and what people's values are and unfortunately have become. This book was a quick read but holds a lot of depth and weight. If you can find a copy, try it. It's refreshingly unique qand is well written.

Larry Bassett
The audible book that I listen to ended with an interview about the writing and influence of John Cheever. And I must’ve picked out this book because I wanted to know some thing about John Cheever who it was pointed out in the interview has fallen upon somewhat hard time. He has not been a popular author since the 1970s.

This short book which on the surface is about a man who has been imprisoned for murder has a lot of irony and weirdness and even humor folded into it. It had me scratching my hea
Apr 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
One star because zero stars is not possible with Goodreads. This book is awful. At least it's a fast read so the pain will end soon. He writes with the self-importance of someone who has too often been told that he is a Very Important Writer, and it detracts from the story. For all I know, the story could be great, but it is difficult to tell, viewing it as we must through the smug lens of John Cheever. ...more
Meg Garvey
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jail-and-juvi
Near perfect. Captures the beauty, tragedy and horror in the prosaic. What a way to demonstrate the uselessness of prisons. It frightens me that so many people didn't think there was enough excitement in the prison, enough shanking and raping. Not everything is meant to be porn for free people. ...more
Chris Gager
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just started last night as I abruptly ran out of books to read with time left on the reading "clock." So far I've read "The Wapshot Chronicle" and some short stories by Cheever. He's a great writer. The set-up seems a bit fishy here(an upper-crust murderer???), but we'll see. The wife's a mega-bitch but maybe she has cause to be. The imprisoned husband's a drug addict who "accidently" killed his brother - that's some seriously bad stuff!

This book gets a shout-out in the "Seinfeld" Cheever episod
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. prison sex and drugs? [s] 5 734 May 05, 2020 04:31PM  
The Bookhouse Boys: Falconer discussion thread 14 16 May 07, 2014 03:57PM  
FALCONER by Cheever 2 26 Jan 15, 2012 04:02PM  

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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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