A Writer with Secrets of Sex and Class

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CheeverCheever: A Life
by Blake Bailey
Alfred A. Knopf.  770 pages, $35.

 

JOHN CHEEVER, who died in 1982, has a place in the American literary canon, primarily for the brilliant short stories he wrote from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. References to homosexuality appear sporadically throughout Cheever’s work, and a love affair between two men is at the core of his final major novel, 1977’s Falconer. Like many 20th-century writers whose lives have been thoroughly documented in journals, interviews, medical records, and reports by those who knew him, Cheever cannot escape his own biography. The publication of The Journals of John Cheever in 1991 revealed his homosexual propensities. Now Blake Bailey’s Cheever: A Life displays in painful detail how tormented Cheever was by his sexuality throughout his life.

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