Well roared lion, gluey atmosphere

FiveChapters serialized John Cheever’s Of Love: A Testimony. Cheever has been and probably always will be the giant watermark on anything I write. The man knew how to start and end stories and use words everywhere.

He looked up to where she was standing, speaking so rationally. He saw her long limbs in the serge frock and the hollows at her shoulders and the thin, pale features and that fair hair. He noticed in hate every detail of her dress and figure, noticed her in the same way he would with gratitude or desire.

On the NYT website Dick Cavett posted far too little video of Cheever and Updike on his show.

Updike: It’s a gift of quickness: John is in excellent touch with America in many of his details. I feel that John understands how men make and lose money in a way that’s almost divinely intuitive.

What a bizarre yet accurate compliment.

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There is a new Burger King going up down the street and nobody cares. In a couple of days when it’s finished everyone will think it’s been there forever

The two reasons I won’t go to IHOP anymore:

1) After the game– won in the final seconds–  there wasn’t a lot to say so I talked about the orange juice, a new study or a new fact, but he said after that game he didn’t want to sit here and talk about orange juice. There was still adrenaline and we were wasting it.

2) After a show we sat in the booth when the ceiling started leaking onto our clothes and seats and food. We were rude.

That’s enough disappointment for one place.

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To be able to write an ending to a story with such an understanding of the simultaneous inconclusiveness and inevitability of endings in real life will never make sense to me. In the end Cheever doubles back to the middle of Of Love, turning the end into a memory of a moment that already happened, the exact words used from another part of the story, as inconclusive and inevitable as it gets. Talking about orange juice I knew that it had been over or was over or would be over, and every ending from that point out has been just as expected and only a part of becoming something else, but I wouldn’t know how to make something out of it.

“As we grow older we read an end into each situation and out of these we build our values and form our expectations. The older we grow the more we know until at maturity we are far, far from fear.”

2 Comments

  1. Posted February 28, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    “The critic Wilfrid Sheed once remarked that in Cheever memory and imagination were not two separate faculties but a single “mega-faculty” that began to improve upon experience as soon as it happened. “If my father started across the room with a screwdriver, by the time he was on the other side it would have turned into a pair of pliers,” Ben says.”


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