It must have been no easy feat for Blake Bailey to corral a life that struggled to not be constrained within borders. But in this tome Bailey reconstructs an identity of Cheever that he kept hidden for almost the entirety of his life. Bailey seems possessed, at times, with Cheever’s signature wit and intelligence to craft sentences that play.
There is no shortage of information in this biography as Bailey had access to everything. EVERYTHING. Bailey never judges Cheever for his choices: his legendary alcoholism, his hidden homosexuality, the emotional abuse of his children, and his seeming struggle with suburban hypocrisy.
Bailey reveals not the how’s of Cheever’s writing, but the deep seated why’s. Updike, as was his want, is revelatory:
““How lonely and unnatural man is and how deep and well-concealed are his confusions”—no wonder Cheever’s fiction is slighted in academia while Fitzgerald’s collegiate romanticism is assigned.”
Stefan loved this book. The biography is long and at a few rare times tedious, but it is always a compelling read and a deep insight into a man that will hopefully explode into relevancy again.
[Published by Knopf in hardcover at $35]