Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Rabbit is twitching

The still-warm corpse of John Updike contributes a thoughtful review of a new Cheever bio to the latest New Yorker.

By sheer coincidence, I am the midst of working on a review (for the Toronto Star) of a new doorstop-bio of an author who, like Cheever, was best-known for his short fiction, was closely associated with The New Yorker, and who directly and indirectly influenced thousands of other writers, often for the worse – Donald Barthelme.

Anyone who has come within smelling distance of my own misery-soaked fiction could easily guess I am more of a Cheeverite, but I do think there is a strain of domestic melancholy in Barthelme's work that often gets overlooked amid all the funny names and narrative jiggery-pokery, and that the two writers are not quite the polar opposites they are assumed to be.

Not to mention that Cheever was more of a fantabulist than his reputation as "Chekhov with a high ball in his hand" would suggest. With some adjustments, both tonal and typographical (and maybe cosmological), "The Swimmer" could have fit into Barthelme's oeuvre.

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