Behind the carefully constructed persona of suburban squire, John Cheever waged a tumultuous battle against himself—a struggle that only found its way into his very last works of fiction.
by Blake Bailey
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Some writers went on the road; others went to Paris or fought in a war. John Cheever (1912–1982) went to Westchester, New York, where he cultivated his own exclusive patch of the Northeast Corridor. His outward appearance—a bit rumpled, collar frayed, every inch the squire of suburbia—oozed wasp gentility. Cheever did rumpled preppy long before rumpled preppy was cool. Ever the showman, he posed with horses for PR photos, talked in a patrician drawl so thick he made Thurston Howell III seem down-to-earth, lived in a rambling country house, and wrote bittersweet stories set on Manhattan’s East Side and in the commuter towns north of the city. A generous portion of that fiction will endure, even if his rank as a novelist is today uncertain. He took delight in seeming a respectable, churchgoing family man and
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