Writer Wednesday: John Cheever

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CheeverThe last time I saw my father was in Grand Central Station. I was going from my grandmother’s in the Adirondacks to a cottage on the Cape that my mother had rented, and I wrote my father that I would be in New York between trains for an hour and a half, and asked if we could have lunch together. His secretary wrote to say that he would meet me at the information booth at noon, and at twelve o’clock sharp I saw him coming through the crowd. He was a stranger to me—my mother divorced him three years ago and I hadn’t been with him since—but as soon as I saw him I felt that he was my father, my flesh and blood, my future and my doom.

– from “Reunion”, written by John Cheever

I’m currently reading Cheever’s collection of short stories, which has been even better than I possibly imagined. Cheever was one of those names that was always dropped between writers I’ve always admired, but for whatever reason, I never got around to reading.

It wasn’t until I listened to this New Yorker podcast that I finally heard “Reunion”, and from that moment on, I knew I was going to appreciate Cheever’s work. I haven’t been that taken by a short story since someone read Donald Barthelme’s “The School” to me.

At just over 1100 words, you won’t find a story that packs in as much sadness and heartache as this. And the “as soon as I saw him I felt that he was my father, my flesh and blood, my future and my doom” line is so damn perfect, I want to buy Cheever a drink.

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