March 30, 2010

Vintage Cheever
John Cheever
Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism
John Updike

My Two Uncles John – At a dinner party years ago in Washington, DC, someone asked the gathered guests who from history they would most like to meet. My friend Lisa Tate quickly replied, “Truman Capote, because he knew everyone else.” Splendid answer. In the imaginary, literary cocktail party I sometimes dream of, a living room lined with bookshelves is elbow-to-elbow with my friends and the literary giants of today and yesterday. Capote is present, giggling beside Lisa on the sofa. And there’s Mark Twain, swaying in a rocking chair, telling all who will listen some winding tale. There’s Dostoyevsky, standing with Ed Underhill before the smoldering fireplace, extolling the virtues of suffering. There's Hemingway, feigning a swing at Joe Wade. There’s Dorothy Parker, coyly asking Robert N. Georgalas to fix her another martini: “As long as you are pouring, darling,” she whispers and smiles. And there, in a far corner of the room, are John Cheever and John Updike, looking and chatting like two beloved uncles at a crowded family gathering. In a room like this, jammed with larger-than-life personalities, the two, tweedy men enjoy a serious, subdued conversation. And I stand near, not wanting to interrupt while leaning closer to hear, to understand, to more fully comprehend what Cheever means when he speaks of the “invincibility” of literature.


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