John Cheever (1912 – 1982) wrote four novels – and 61 tense, bitter and sardonic short stories about life in the suburbs and the American dream of the Space Age: cocktail parties, swimming pools, spotless kitchens and the tragic, tender, middle-class atomic family.
A predecessor to ‘The Ice Storm’ and ‘Desperate Housewifes’, Cheever’s stories describe the domestic and sexual dramas of the 1950ies and 1960ies:
If you like ‘Mad Men’ and/or easy, accessible stories about domestic struggles and hidden traumas, Cheever provides you with dozens of quick, witty variations of these familiar themes.
Out of 61 stories written between 1947 and the mid-1970ies, I can recommend the following:
- Torch Song
- The Cure
- The Worm in the Apple
- The Trouble of Marcie Flint
- The Country Husband
- The Seaside Houses
- The Ocean
…and, my three favourites:
- The enormous Radio (read it online)
- Christmas is a sad Season for the Poor (read it online)
- The Swimmer (read it online)
Cheever repeats himself a lot. Stories from the same collection that seemed tired and poorly thought-out:
- The Sorrows of Gin
- O Youth and Beauty!
- The Housebreaker of Shady Hill
- The Death of Justina
- A Vision of the World
- The World of Apples
Or get a new – but incomplete – German translation from 2009.
All in all: 4 of 5 stars. Straightforward, intelligent and entertaining short stories… but often repetitive.
Nothing you need to read front-to-cover. But excellent summer reading, nonetheless!