Tuesday, September 21, 2010

John Cheever -- A Book Worth Reading

Oh, no.  I’ve finished another good book.  I hate that.  
Cheever, A Life, the biography of the writer, John Cheever was fabulous and I’m not sure why I liked it so much.  He was a lonely bi-sexual, a drunk for most of his life, an unhappy man, yet  I loved this book.  
It was honest, sharp and so insightful yet no one around him seemed to know him well.  Everyone seemed to think of him as a nice and kindly man except for his wife who despised him for most of his life and his children who didn’t understand him.  These were the people, incidentally, he wanted to please most, but he didn’t seem to know how to do it.  Relationships of all kinds seemed to elude him.  
What interests me, too, is that much is told from the point-of-view of his journals which he seemed not to want to hide, in which he referred to his loathing of his homosexual tendencies and fears that his drinking is what made his wife hate him so much (though she fixed him dinner without fail for all the years of their marriage and cared for him during his final bout with cancer.)  I wonder, too, why more didn’t read his journals during his life and find out more about him.  He invited his son to read them and sat watching him at one point as he read.  No one seemed interested.  It made me want to keep a journal better and more honestly.
I think I love the beauty of the writing of this book and the mingling of that with the beauty and honesty of the writing of John Cheever himself is what got me.  I don’t really know if I’ve read much of John Cheever’s work at all.  I’ve read much of his rivals’ works:  John Updike, whom I love, Saul Bellow, John Irving.  Cheever is mostly known for his short stories.  But I’d heard so much about this biography that I had to give it a shot and I’m so glad I did.  I still may not try much of his work as it has settled back into obscurity a bit, but his life I love.  

Hope my family, friends and former students aren't too alarmed at the range of my reading interests.  Somehow such things don't alarm me as much as they seem to other people.  I think there is great beauty in understanding the difficulties of others.  I don't enjoy crassness nor do I have a prurient interest in obscenity and suffering.  In fact I'll stop reading if I find in books things that appeal to such things.  

But perhaps that is what the appeal in my Master's Degree in Educational Counseling was.  To understand the human heart a little better and sympathize, empathize and wish a little I could help out those for whom life is tough.  God knows everything and I am so far from that but something inside me tells me that he approves when I seek to understand the hurting that goes on.  I think that's why he made me tough and not especially judgmental.  No excuses, just a little explanation I guess.

No comments: