John Updike

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Posted by r2d2 04/18/2009 @ 06:11

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Magical or cursed? Updike's witches coming to TV's 'Eastwick' -
Eastwick, a one-hour drama, is based on John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick (1984), a sexy, savvy novel of magic and feminism in a New England town in the late 1960s. The series is also based on the sexy, if not quite so smart, 1987 film,...
Endpoint by John Updike - January magazine
There is something heartbreaking about Endpoint and Other Poems (Knopf), the last John Updike book that will ever be published under the guidance of the author's own hand. It seems to me he likely understood that the book would be heartbreaking and...
ABC Announces the 2009-10 Television Lineup - About - News & Issues
Based on the novel by John Updike and inspired by the popular movie The Witches of Eastwick, this series follows three very different women who find they suddenly possess very unique powers when a mysterious (and very handsome) man arrives in their...
ABC picks up new drama, 'Eastwick' - Los Angeles Times
ABC has picked up "Eastwick," a drama based on the John Updike novel and 1987 film centering on three single women who live in the New England town of Eastwick. After a crisis bonds them together as friends, weird things -- that is,...
'Endpoint' by John Updike - Pittsburgh Post Gazette
By Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Starting on his 70th birthday in 2002, John Updike wrote a poem for the occasion. He missed his final birthday -- March 18, 2008 -- by a month. Dated April 14, "A Lightened Life" reveals the writer's awareness of...
FREE Daily News Alerts - Inside Higher Ed
The best description of Gray's art I've ever seen was written by the 15-year-old fan John Updike, in a letter I found in Gray's papers at Boston University. “The drawing is simple and clear, but extremely effective,” Updike wrote....
TV Advertisers Are Offered Closer Ties With Content - New York Times
“Eastwick,” on Wednesday, is based on the John Updike novel “The Witches of Eastwick,” as well as the movie by that name. “Eastwick” is one of five new series that will compose an all-new Wednesday for ABC. The other four newcomers are star-filled...
'Endpoint' marks the last of John Updike's poetry - San Jose Mercury News
By Carmela Ciuraru When he died in January at age 76, John Updike was rightly honored as one of our most gifted fiction writers. Hardly mentioned, however, was his long avocation as a poet. He published several collections of verse, and his latest,...
And Other Poems By John Updike - New York Times
By John Updike Nevertheless, and despite a fairly large body of work as a poet, it was as a novelist that he was hailed. Clearly he had poetic qualities as a writer: he had the imagery, the observation, the rhythm, the delight in making words click...
ABC announces fall schedule, 'Ugly Betty' moves to Fridays - Entertainment Weekly
The new drama Eastwick -- a new take on the John Updike tome The Witches of Eastwick -- will air in the 10 pm slot. "We really wanted to get back to family comedies," explains Stephen McPherson, ABC's entertainment president, of the 2-hour comedy block...

John Updike

A caricature of John Updike from The New York Review of Books by David Levine, who has drawn Updike several times.

John Hoyer Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009) was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Both Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest received the Pulitzer Prize. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike was widely recognized for his careful craftsmanship, his unique prose style, and his prolific output, having published more than twenty novels and more than a dozen short story collections, as well as poetry, art criticism, literary criticism and children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews, and poems appeared in The New Yorker, starting in 1954. He also wrote regularly for The New York Review of Books. He populated his fiction with characters who "frequently experience personal turmoil and must respond to crises relating to religion, family obligations, and marital infidelity." His work has attracted a significant amount of critical attention and praise, and he is widely considered to be one of the great American writers of his time as well as a notable prose stylist. Updike died of lung cancer in 2009.

John Hoyer Updike was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, to author Linda Grace Hoyer Updike and Wesley Russell Updike, a high school science teacher. John Updike was raised at 117 Philadelphia Avenue (now part of Route 724) in Shillington, Pennsylvania, until he was 13, when his family moved to a sandstone farmhouse in Plowville, Berks County, Pennsylvania, where he became interested in reading and writing. Shillington retained its importance for him; in his memoir Self Consciousness, he wrote "The first mystery that confronts is 'Why me?' The next is 'Why here?' Shillington was my here." More isolated in the country, Updike "commenced an adolescence marked by solitude and familial tension"; his mother "inculcated in him a conviction that he was marked for greatness. Perhaps just as important, she also introduced him to the New Yorker magazine, which quickly became for young Updike the symbol of all his most fervent aspirations." Like his mother, Updike suffered from psoriasis, and connected it to his abilities as a writer. In Self Consciousness, he links his "skin's embarrassing overproduction" to his creativity.

These early years in Berks County would shape the environment of the Rabbit tetralogy, as well as many of his early novels and short stories. He graduated from Shillington High School as co-valedictorian and class president in 1950. Updike later attended Harvard after receiving a full scholarship. At Harvard, he "immediately established himself as a major talent of indefatigable energy, submitting a steady stream of articles and drawings for the Harvard Lampoon," which he served as president, before graduating summa cum laude in 1954 with a degree in English.

After graduation, he decided to pursue a career in graphic arts and attended The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at the University of Oxford. His early ambition was to be a cartoonist. After returning to the US, Updike and his family moved to New York, where he became a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He stayed only two years, writing "Talk of the Town" columns and submitting poetry and short stories. In New York, Updike " the remarkable poems and stories that filled such early books as The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures (1958) and The Same Door: Short Stories (1959). Stylistically, his early stories were directly influenced by the New Yorker itself." This early work reflected the influence of JD Salinger ("A&P"), John Cheever ("Snowing in Greenwich Village"), and the Modernists Marcel Proust, Henry Green, James Joyce, and Vladimir Nabokov.

At this time, Updike also underwent a spiritual crisis. Suffering from a loss of faith, he "turned to the work of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and the German Christian theologian Karl Barth, both of whom decisively shaped both his spiritual beliefs and his artistic vision, which, in Updike’s case, are intricately linked." Updike more or less remained a believing Christian for the rest of his life.

Later, Updike and his family moved to Ipswich, Massachusetts. Many commentators, including a columnist in the local Ipswich Chronicle, asserted that the fictional town of Tarbox in Couples was based on Ipswich. Updike denied the suggestion in a letter to the paper. Impressions of Updike's day-to-day life in Ipswich in the 1960s and 1970s are contained in a letter to the same paper published shortly following Updike's death and written by a friend and contemporary. In Ipswich, Updike wrote Rabbit, Run (1960), on a Guggenheim Fellowship, and The Centaur (1963), two of his most acclaimed and famous works; the latter won the National Book Award.

Rabbit, Run featured Rabbit Angstrom, a former high school basketball star and middle-class paragon who would become Updike's most enduring and critically examined character. Updike wrote three additional novels about him. Rabbit, Run was featured in Time's All-TIME 100 Greatest Novels.

Updike married Mary E. Pennington, an art student from Radcliffe College. She accompanied him to Oxford, where their first daughter Elizabeth was born. They had four children together before getting divorced in 1974. Updike was divorced in 1974; his four children, including the future fiction writer David Updike, stayed with his ex-wife.

In 1977 Updike married Martha Bernhard, with whom he spent the rest of his life.

Updike wrote a sequel to Rabbit, Run in 1971 called Rabbit Redux, his response to the 1960s; Rabbit reflected much of Updike's confusion and ambivalence towards the social and political upheaval that beset the United States at that time. In 1980 he published another novel featuring that character, Rabbit is Rich, which won the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize, the three major American literary prizes. The novel found "Rabbit the fat and happy owner of a Toyota dealership"; Updike found it difficult to close the book, because he was "having so much fun" in the imaginary county Rabbit and his family inhabited. In 1990, Updike published the last Rabbit novel, Rabbit at Rest, in which his lead character died. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Over 500 pages long, the novel is among Updike's most celebrated. In 2000, Updike included the novella Rabbit Remembered in his collection Licks of Love, drawing a final close to the Rabbit saga.

The Maple short stories, collected in Too Far To Go (1979), reflected the ebb and flow of Updike's first marriage; "Separating" (1974) and "Here Come the Maples" (1976) related to Updike's divorce. Those stories were the basis for the television movie Too Far To Go which was broadcast on NBC. Two other novels from this period, A Month of Sundays (1975), the first in Updike's so-called Scarlet Letter trilogy, and Marry Me: A Romance (1976), are also meditations on suburban adultery.

In The Coup (1978), a lauded novel about an African dictatorship inspired by a trip, Updike worked in new territory. After writing Rabbit is Rich, Updike published The Witches of Eastwick (1984), a playful novel about witches living in Rhode Island. He described it as an attempt to "make things right with my, what shall we call them, feminist detractors." One of Updike's most popular novels, it was adapted as a film and was included in The Western Canon (1994) of Harold Bloom. In 2008 Updike published The Widows of Eastwick, a return to the witches in their old age. It was his last published novel.

In 1986 he published the unconventional novel Roger's Version, the second volume of the Scarlet Letter trilogy, about an attempt to prove God's existence using a computer program. Author and critic Martin Amis called it a "near-masterpiece." The novel S. (1989), uncharacteristically featuring a female protagonist, concluded Updike's reworking of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter.

Updike enjoyed working in series; in addition to the Rabbit Angstrom novels and the Maples stories, a recurrent Updike alter-ego is the moderately well-known, unprolific Jewish novelist and eventual Nobel laureate Henry Bech, chronicled in three comic short-story cycles: Bech, a Book (1970), Bech Is Back (1981) and Bech At Bay: A Quasi-Novel (1998). These stories were compiled into The Complete Henry Bech (2001) by Everyman's Library. Bech was portrayed as a comical and self-conscious antithesis of Updike's own literary persona: Jewish, a World War II veteran, reclusive, and unprolific to a fault.

After the publication of the Pulitzer-winning Rabbit at Rest, Updike spent the rest of the 1990s and early 2000s publishing novels more experimental in "style and approach." These styles included the historical fiction of Memories of the Ford Administration (1992), the magical realism of Brazil (1994), the science fiction of Toward the End of Time (1997), the postmodernism of Gertrude and Claudius (2000), and the art-tinged experimentalism of Seek My Face (2002).

In the midst of these, he wrote a more conventional novel, called In the Beauty of the Lilies (1996), an historical saga spanning many generations and exploring themes of religion and cinema in America. It is seen as the most successful novel of Updike's late career Some critics have predicted that the novel "may well emerge as the sort of late masterpiece overlooked or praised by rote in its day, only to be rediscovered by another generation." In Villages (2004), Updike returned to the familiar territory of infidelities in New England. His twenty-second novel, Terrorist (2006), the story of a fervent, eighteen-year-old extremist Muslim in New Jersey, garnered media attention.

In 2003, Updike published The Early Stories, a large collection of his short fiction spanning the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. At over 800 pages long with over one hundred stories, it has been called "perhaps Updike’s most important achievement," functioning "as a richly episodic and lyrical Bildungsroman – that is, a novel of education and development – in which Updike traces the trajectory from adolescence, college, married life, fatherhood, separation and divorce." It won the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2004. Even this volume excluded several others of his short-story collections.

Updike worked in a wide array of genres, including fiction, poetry (most but not all of which is compiled in Collected Poems: 1953-1993, 1993), essays (collected in about nine separate collections), a play (Buchanan Dying, 1974), and memoir (Self Consciousness, 1989).

He lived with his wife Martha in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. He died at a hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts, on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

He reviewed "nearly every major writer of the 20th century and some 19th century authors," typically in The New Yorker, always with an eye to make his reviews "animated." He was also a champion for young writers, often making generous comparisons to his own literary heroes including Vladimir Nabokov and Marcel Proust. Good reviews from Updike often "meant something" in terms of literary reputation and even sales; some of his positive reviews gave "huge boosts to the careers, for example, of Erica Jong, Thomas Mallon and Jonathan Safran Foer." Bad reviews by Updike sometimes caused controversy too, as when in late 2008 he gave a "damning" review to Toni Morrison's novel A Mercy.

His character Rabbit Angstrom, widely considered his magnum opus, has been said to have "entered the pantheon of signal American literary figures, joining Huck Finn, Jay Gatsby, Holden Caulfield and the like." A 2002 list by Book magazine of the 100 Best Fictional Characters Since 1900 listed Rabbit in the top five. The Rabbit novels, the Henry Bech stories, and the Maple stories have been canonized by Everyman's Library.

Updike is a master of effortless motion - between third and first person, from the metaphorical density of literary prose to the demotic, from specific detail to wide generalisation, from the actual to the numinous, from the scary to the comic. For his own particular purposes, Updike devised for himself a style of narration, an intense, present tense, free indirect style, that can leap up, whenever it wants, to a God's-eye view of Harry, or the view of his put-upon wife, Janice, or victimised son, Nelson. This carefully crafted artifice permits here assumptions about evolutionary theory, which are more Updike than Harry, and comically sweeping notions of Jewry, which are more Harry than Updike. This is at the heart of the tetralogy's achievement. Updike once said of the Rabbit books that they were an exercise in point of view. This was typically self-deprecating, but contains an important grain of truth. Harry's education extends no further than high school, and his view is further limited by a range of prejudices and a stubborn, combative spirit, yet he is the vehicle for a half-million-word meditation on postwar American anxiety, failure and prosperity. A mode had to be devised to make this possible, and that involved pushing beyond the bounds of realism. In a novel like this, Updike insisted, you have to be generous and allow your characters eloquence, "and not chop them down to what you think is the right size".

For some time now Updike’s language has seemed to encode an almost theological optimism about its capacity to refer. Updike is notably unmodern in his impermeability to silence and the interruptions of the abyss. For all his fabled Protestantism, both American Puritan and Lutheran-Barthian, with its cold glitter, its insistence on the aching gap between God and His creatures, Updike seems less like Hawthorne than Balzac, in his unstopping and limitless energy, and his cheerfully professional belief that stories can be continued; the very form of the Rabbit books – here extended a further instance – suggests continuance. Updike does not appear to believe that words ever fail us – ‘life’s gallant, battered ongoingness’, indeed – and part of the difficulty he has run into, late in his career, is that he shows no willingness, verbally, to acknowledge silence, failure, interruption, loss of faith, despair and so on. Supremely, better than almost any other contemporary writer, he can always describe these feelings and states; but they are not inscribed in the language itself. Updike’s language, for all that it gestures towards the usual range of human disappointment and collapse, testifies instead to its own uncanny success: to a belief that the world can always be brought out of its cloudiness and made clear in a fair season.

Updike’s sentences at their frequent best are not a complacent expression of faith. Rather, like Proust’s sentences in Updike’s description, they "seek out an essence so fine the search itself is an act of faith." Updike aspires to "this sense of self-qualification, the kind of timid reverence towards what exists that Cézanne shows when he grapples for the shape and shade of a fruit through a mist of delicate stabs." Their hesitancy and self-qualification arise as they meet obstacles, readjust and pass on. If life is bountiful in New England, it is also evasive and easily missed. In the stories Updike tells, marriages and homes are made only to be broken. His descriptiveness embodies a promiscuous love for everything in the world. But love is precarious, Updike is always saying, since it thrives on obstructions and makes them if it cannot find them.

Harold Bloom, the famous critic, once called Updike "a minor novelist with a major style. A quite beautiful and very considerable stylist...He specializes in the easier pleasures." Bloom also edited an important collection of critical essays on Updike in 1987.

A virtuoso, he was never content with virtuosity. He sang like Henry James, but he saw like Sinclair Lewis. The two sides of American fiction—the precise, realist, encyclopedic appetite to get it all in, and the exquisitist urge to make writing out of sensation rendered exactly—were both alive in him. He was at once conjurer and chronicler, and it is this that makes the great Updike novels masterpieces properly so called: they get it all in and they get it all right. Updike’s great subject was the American attempt to fill the gap left by faith with the materials produced by mass culture. He documented how the death of a credible religious belief has been offset by sex and adultery and movies and sports and Toyotas and family love and family obligation. For Updike, this effort was blessed, and very nearly successful. Unlike his European contemporaries, who saw the same space and the attempted filling as mere aridity and deprivation, Updike was close enough to, and fond enough of, the source of postwar material abundance to love it fully, and for itself. (And he knew enough of the decade of deprivation that preceded the big blossoming never to be jaded about plenty.) He viewed the material culture of American life with a benign, appreciative ironic eye. But he had no illusions, either, about its ability to cover the failure or wish away mortality.

The elegant and penetrating descriptions, however, composed from the chasm's edge—both the wisdom and the wise unknowingness—are among the main reasons one reads Updike. "Her gesture as she tips the dregs of white wine into a potted geranium seems infinite, like one of Vermeer's moments frozen in an eternal light from the left." His eye and his prose never falter, even when the world fails to send its more socially complicated revelations directly his story's way.

See also the External links section below for links to archives of his essays and reviews in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.

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Short story

The short story refers to a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, usually in narrative format. This format or medium tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas (in the 20th and 21st century sense) and novels or books. Short story definitions based upon length differ somewhat even among professional writers, due somewhat in part to the fragmentation of the medium into genres. Since the short story format includes a wide range of genres and styles, the actual length is mitigated somewhere between the individual author's preference (or the story's actual needs in terms of creative trajectory or story arc) and the submission guidelines relevant to the story's actual market. Guidelines vary greatly among publishers.

Many short story writers define their work through a combination of creative, personal expression and artistic integrity. As a result, many attempt to resist categorization by genre as well as definition by numbers, finding such approaches limiting and counter-intuitive to artistic form and reasoning. As a result, definitions of the short story based upon length splinter even more when the writing process is taken into consideration.

Short stories have their origins in oral story-telling traditions and the prose anecdote, a swiftly-sketched situation that quickly comes to its point. With the rise of the comparatively realistic novel, the short story evolved as a miniature version, with some of its first perfectly independent examples in the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann. Other nineteenth-century writers well-known for their short stories are Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Nikolai Gogol, Guy de Maupassant, Bolesław Prus and Anton Chekhov. Short stories were a staple of early-19th-century magazines and often led to fame and novel-length projects for their authors. More recently, short stories have been reprinted in anthologies, categorized by topic or critical reception. Today many authors release collections of their short stories.

Some authors are known almost entirely for their short stories, either by choice (they wrote nothing else) or by critical regard (short-story writing is thought of as a challenging art). An example is Jorge Luis Borges, who won American fame with "The Garden of Forking Paths," published in the August 1948 Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Another example is O. Henry (author of "Gift of the Magi"), for whom the O. Henry Award is named. American examples include Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver.

Authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bolesław Prus, F. Scott Fitzgerald, P.G. Wodehouse and Ernest Hemingway were highly accomplished writers of both short stories and novels.

Short stories have often been adapted for half-hour and hour radio dramas, as on NBC Presents: Short Story (1951-52).

The art of story telling is doubtlessly older than record of civilization. Even the so-called modern short story, which was the latest of the major literary types to evolve, has an ancient lineage. Perhaps the oldest and most direct ancestor of the short story is the anecdote and illustrative story, straight to the point. The ancient parable and fable, starkly brief narrative used to enforce some moral or spiritual truth, anticipate the severe brevity and unity of some short stories written today.

Short stories tend to be less complex than novels. Usually a short story focuses on only one incident, has a single plot, a single setting, a small number of characters, and covers a short period of time.

In longer forms of fiction, stories tend to contain certain core elements of dramatic structure: exposition (the introduction of setting, situation and main characters); complication (the event that introduces the conflict); rising action, crisis (the decisive moment for the protagonist and his commitment to a course of action); climax (the point of highest interest in terms of the conflict and the point with the most action); resolution (the point when the conflict is resolved); and moral.

Because of their length, short stories may or may not follow this pattern. Some do not follow patterns at all. For example, modern short stories only occasionally have an exposition. More typical, though, is an abrupt beginning, with the story starting in the middle of the action (in medias res). As with longer stories, plots of short stories also have a climax, crisis, or turning point. However, the endings of many short stories are abrupt and open and may or may not have a moral or practical lesson. As with any art form, the exact characteristics of a short story will vary by author.

When short stories intend to convey a specific ethical or moral perspective, they fall into a more specific sub-category called Parables (or Fables). This specific kind of short story has been used by spiritual and religious leaders worldwide to inspire, enlighten, entertain, and educate their followers.

Determining what exactly separates a short story from longer fictional formats is problematic. A classic definition of a short story is that one should be able to be read it in one sitting, a point most notably made in Edgar Allan Poe's essay "The Philosophy of Composition" (1846). Other definitions place the maximum word length at anywhere from 7,000 to 9,000 words. As a point of reference for the science fiction genre writer, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines short story length in its Nebula Awards for science fiction submission guidelines as having a word count of less than 7,500. In contemporary usage, the term short story most often refers to a work of fiction no longer than 20,000 words and no shorter than 1,000. Stories less than 1,000 words are usually referred to either as "short short fiction" or "short shorts" or even "flash fiction".

Short stories date back to oral story-telling traditions which originally produced epics such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Oral narratives were often told in the form of rhyming or rhythmic verse, often including recurring sections or, in the case of Homer, Homeric epithets. Such stylistic devices often acted as mnemonics for easier recall, rendition and adaptation of the story. Short sections of verse might focus on individual narratives that could be told at one sitting. The overall arc of the tale would emerge only through the telling of multiple such sections.

Fables, succinct tales with an explicit "moral," were said by the Greek historian Herodotus to have been invented in the 6th century BCE by a Greek slave named Aesop, though other times and nationalities have also been given for him. These ancient fables are today known as Aesop's Fables.

The other ancient form of short story, the anecdote, was popular under the Roman Empire. Anecdotes functioned as a sort of parable, a brief realistic narrative that embodies a point. Many surviving Roman anecdotes were collected in the 13th or 14th century as the Gesta Romanorum. Anecdotes remained popular in Europe well into the 18th century, when the fictional anecdotal letters of Sir Roger de Coverley were published.

In Europe, the oral story-telling tradition began to develop into written stories in the early 14th century, most notably with Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron. Both of these books are composed of individual short stories (which range from farce or humorous anecdotes to well-crafted literary fictions) set within a larger narrative story (a frame story), although the frame tale device was not adopted by all writers. At the end of the 16th century, some of the most popular short stories in Europe were the darkly tragic "novella" of Matteo Bandello (especially in their French translation).

The mid 17th century in France saw the development of a refined short novel, the "nouvelle", by such authors as Madame de Lafayette. In the 1690s, traditional fairy tales began to be published (one of the most famous collections was by Charles Perrault). The appearance of Antoine Galland's first modern translation of the Thousand and One Nights (or Arabian Nights) (from 1704; another translation appeared in 1710–12) would have an enormous influence on the 18th century European short stories of Voltaire, Diderot and others.

Today's short stories emerged as their own genre in the early 19th century. Early examples of short stories include the Brothers Grimm's Fairy Tales (1824–26) and Nikolai Gogol's Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka (1831–32). The first examples in the United States are Charles Brockden Brown's "Somnambulism" (1805), Washington Irving's Rip van Winkle (1819) and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840) and Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales (1842).

In the latter 19th century, the growth of print magazines and journals created a strong demand for short fiction of between 3,000 and 15,000 words. Famous short stories of this period include Bolesław Prus's "A Legend of Old Egypt" (1888) and Anton Chekhov's "Ward No. 6" (1892).

In the first half of the 20th century, a number of high-profile magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Scribner's and The Saturday Evening Post published short stories in each issue. The demand for quality short stories was so great and the money paid for such so high that F. Scott Fitzgerald repeatedly turned to short-story writing to pay his numerous debts.

The period following World War II saw a great flowering of literary short fiction in the United States. The New Yorker continued to publish the works of the form’s leading mid-century practitioners, including Shirley Jackson, whose story, “The Lottery,” published in 1948, elicited the strongest response in the magazine’s history to that time. Other frequent contributors during the last 1940s included John Cheever, John Steinbeck, Jean Stafford and Eudora Welty. J. D. Salinger's “Nine Stories” (1953) experimented with point of view and voice, while Flannery O’Connor's “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (1955) reinvigorated the Southern Gothic style. When Life magazine published Ernest Hemingway's long short story (or novella) The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, the issue containing this story sold 5,300,000 copies in only two days.

Cultural and social identity played a considerable role in much of the short fiction of the 1960s. Phillip Roth and Grace Paley cultivated distinctive Jewish-American voices. Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” adopted a consciously feminists perspective. James Baldwin’s “Going to Meet the Man” told stories of African-American life. Frank O’Connor’s “The Lonely Voice,” a classic exploration of the short story, appeared in 1963. The 1970s saw the rise of the post-modern short story in the works of Donald Barthelme and John Barth. The same decade witnessed the establishment of the Pushcart Press, which, under the leadership of Bill Henderson, began publishing the best of the independent and small presses.

Miminalism gained widespread influence in the 1980s, most notably in the work of Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie and Bobbi Ann Mason. However, traditionalists including John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates maintained significant influence on the form, as did Canadian author Alice Munro. John Gardner’s seminal reference text, “The Art of Fiction” appeared in 1983.

Many of the American short stories of the 1990s feature magical realism. Among the leading practitioners in this style were Steven Millhauser and Robert Olen Butler. Stuart Dybek gained prominence for his depictions of life in Chicago’s Polish neighborhoods and Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried" tackled the legacy of the Vietnam War. Louise Erdrich wrote poignantly of Native American life. T. C. Boyle and David Foster Wallace explored the psychology of popular culture.

The first years of the twenty-first century saw the emergence of a new generation of young writers including Jhumpa Lahiri, Kevin Brockmeier, Jacob Appel, George Saunders and Dan Chaon. Blogs and e-zines joined traditional paper-based literary journals in showcasing the work of emerging authors.

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Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov book cover.jpg

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (Russian: Владимир Владимирович Набоков, Russian pronunciation: ) (23 April 1899, Saint Petersburg – 2 July 1977, Montreux) was a multilingual Russian-American novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist. He also made contributions to entomology and had an interest in chess problems.

Nabokov's Lolita (1955) is frequently cited as amongst his most important novels, and is his most widely known, exhibiting the love of intricate wordplay and descriptive detail that characterized all his works. The novel was ranked at #4 in the list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library. His memoir entitled Speak, Memory was listed #8 on the Modern Library nonfiction list.

Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899 (10 April 1899 Old-Style). The eldest of five children of liberal lawyer, politician and journalist Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov and his wife, née Elena Ivanovna Rukavishnikova, he was born to a wealthy and prominent family of the untitled nobility of Saint Petersburg. He spent his childhood and youth there and at the country estate Vyra near Siverskaya, south of the city.

Nabokov's childhood, which he called "perfect", was remarkable in several ways. The family spoke Russian, English and French in their household, and Nabokov was trilingual from an early age. In fact, much to his father's patriotic chagrin, Nabokov could read and write English before he could Russian. In Speak, Memory Nabokov recalls numerous details of his privileged childhood, and his ability to recall in vivid detail memories of his past was a boon to him during his permanent exile, as well as providing a theme which echoes from his first book, Mary, all the way to later works such as Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle. While the family was nominally Orthodox, they felt no religious fervor and little Volodya was not forced to attend church after he lost interest. In 1916 Nabokov inherited the estate Rozhdestveno, next to Vyra, from his uncle Vasiliy Ivanovich Rukavishnikov ("Uncle Ruka" in Speak, Memory), but lost it in the revolution one year later; this was the only house he would ever own.

After the 1917 February Revolution, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov became a secretary of the Russian Provisional government and the family was forced to flee the city after the Bolshevik Revolution for Crimea, not expecting to be away for very long. They lived at a friend's estate and in September 1918, they moved to Livadiya; Nabokov's father was a minister of justice of the Crimean provisional government. After the withdrawal of the German Army (November 1918) and the defeat of the White Army in early 1919, the Nabokovs left for exile in western Europe. On 2 April 1919, the family left Sevastopol on the last ship. They settled briefly in England, where Vladimir enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge and studied Slavic and Romance languages. He later drew on his Cambridge experiences to write the novel Glory. In 1920, his family moved to Berlin, where his father set up the émigré newspaper Rul' (Rudder). Nabokov would follow to Berlin after his studies at Cambridge two years later.

In March 1922, Nabokov's father was assassinated in Berlin by Russian monarchists as he was fighting to protect their real target, Pavel Milyukov, a leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party-in-exile. This mistaken, violent death would echo again and again in Nabokov's fiction, where characters would meet their deaths under mistaken terms. In Pale Fire, for example, one interpretation of the novel has a communist assassin murder the poet John Shade while attempting to kill a displaced monarch that has escaped from his home country. Shortly after his father's death, his mother and sister moved to Prague. Nabokov stayed in Berlin where he had become a recognized poet and writer within the émigré community and published under the pen name V. Sirin - perhaps signifying an owl or a mythological bird. To supplement his scant writing income, he taught languages and gave tennis and boxing lessons.

In 1922 Nabokov became engaged to Svetlana Siewert; the engagement was broken off by her family in early 1923 because he had no steady job. In May 1923, he met Véra Evseyevna Slonim at a charity ball in Berlin and married her in April 1925. Their only child, Dmitri, was born in 1934.

In 1936, Vera lost her job due to the increasingly antisemitic environment and the assassin of his father was appointed second-in-command of the Russian émigré group. In the same year Nabokov began seeking a job in the English-speaking world. In 1937 he left Germany for France, where he had a short affair with Russian émigré Irina Guadanini; his family followed, making their last visit to Prague en route. They settled in Paris, but also spent time in Cannes, Menton, Cap d'Antibes, and Frejus. In May 1940 the Nabokov family fled from the advancing German troops to the United States on board the Champlain.

The Nabokovs settled down in Manhattan and Vladimir started a job at the American Museum of Natural History. In October he met Edmund Wilson, who became his close friend until the falling out two decades later and introduced Nabokov's work to American editors.

Nabokov came to Wellesley College in 1941 as resident lecturer in comparative literature. The position, created specifically for him, provided an income and free time to write creatively and pursue his lepidoptery. Nabokov is remembered as the founder of Wellesley's Russian Department. His lecture series on major nineteenth-century Russian writers was hailed as "funny", "learned", and "brilliantly satirical." The Nabokovs resided in Wellesley, Massachusetts during the 1941-42 academic year; they moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in September 1942 and lived there until June 1948. Following a lecture tour through the United States, Nabokov returned to Wellesley for the 1944–45 academic year as a lecturer in Russian. He served through the 1947-48 term as Wellesley's one-man Russian Department, offering courses in Russian language and literature. His classes were popular, due as much to his unique teaching style as to the wartime interest in all things Russian. At the same time he was curator of lepidoptery at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology. After being encouraged by Morris Bishop, Nabokov left Wellesley in 1948 to teach Russian and European literature at Cornell University. In 1945, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Nabokov wrote Lolita while traveling on butterfly-collection trips in the western United States which he undertook every summer. (Nabokov never learned to drive, Vera acted as chauffeur; when Nabokov attempted to burn unfinished drafts of Lolita, it was Vera who stopped him. He called her the best-humored woman he had ever known.) In June 1953 he and his family came to Ashland, Oregon, renting a house on Meade Street from Professor Taylor, head of the Southern Oregon College Department of Social Science. There he finished Lolita and began writing the novel Pnin. He roamed the nearby mountains looking for butterflies, and wrote a poem called Lines Written in Oregon. On 1 October 1953, he and his family left for Ithaca, New York.

After the great financial success of Lolita, Nabokov was able to return to Europe and devote himself exclusively to writing. Also his son had obtained a position as an operatic bass at Reggio Emilia. On 1 October 1961, he and Véra moved to the Montreux Palace Hotel in Montreux, Switzerland; he stayed there until the end of his life. From his sixth-floor quarters he conducted his business and took tours to the Alps, Corsica, and Sicily to hunt butterflies. In 1976 he was hospitalized with an undiagnosed fever; rehospitalized in Lausanne in 1977, he suffered from severe bronchial congestion, and died on 2 July. His remains were cremated and are buried at the Clarens cemetery in Montreux.

At the time of his death, he was working on a novel titled The Original of Laura. His wife Vera and son Dmitri were entrusted with Nabokov's literary executorship, and though he asked them to burn the manuscript, they were unable to destroy his final work. The incomplete manuscript, around 125 handwritten index cards, has remained in a Swiss bank vault where only two people, Dmitri Nabokov and an unknown person, have access. Portions of the manuscript have been shown to Nabokov scholars. In April, 2008, Dmitri announced that he would publish the novel.

Several short excerpts of The Original of Laura have been made public, most recently by German weekly Die Zeit, which in its 14 August 2008 issue for the first time reproduced some of Nabokov's original index cards obtained by its reporter Malte Herwig. In the accompanying article, Herwig concludes that "Laura", although fragmentary, is "vintage Nabokov".

Nabokov's first writings were in Russian, but he came to his greatest distinction in the English language. For this achievement, he has been compared with Joseph Conrad; yet Nabokov viewed this as a dubious comparison, as Conrad composed only in English. Nabokov disdained the comparison for aesthetic reasons, lamenting to the critic Edmund Wilson, "I am too old to change Conradically" — which John Updike later called, "itself a jest of genius." Nabokov translated many of his own early works into English, sometimes in cooperation with his son Dmitri. His trilingual upbringing had a profound influence on his artistry. He has metaphorically described the transition from one language to another as the slow journey at night from one village to the next with only a candle for illumination. Nabokov himself translated two books into Russian that he had originally written in English, Conclusive Evidence, and Lolita, respectively. The first "translation" was made because of Nabokov's feeling of imperfection in the English version. Writing the book, he noted that he needed to translate his own memories into English, and to spend a lot of time explaining things which are well-known in Russia; then he decided to re-write the book once again, in his first native language, and after that he made the final version, Speak, Memory (Nabokov first wanted to name it "Speak, Mnemosyne"). Nabokov was a proponent of individualism, and rejected concepts and ideologies that curtailed individual freedom and expression, such as totalitarianism in its various forms as well as Freud's psychoanalysis. Poshlost, or as he transcribed it, poshlust, is disdained and frequently mocked in his works.

Nabokov published under the pseudonym "Vladimir Sirin" in the 1920s to 1940s, occasionally to mask his identity from critics. He also makes cameo appearances in some of his novels, such as the character "Vivian Darkbloom" (an anagram of "Vladimir Nabokov") in Lolita.

Nabokov is noted for his complex plots, clever word play, and use of alliteration. He gained both fame and notoriety with his novel Lolita (1955), which tells of a grown man's devouring passion for a twelve-year-old girl. This and his other novels, particularly Pale Fire (1962), won him a place among the greatest novelists of the 20th century. His longest novel, which met with a mixed response, is Ada (1969). He devoted more time to the composition of this novel than any of his others. Nabokov's fiction is characterized by its linguistic playfulness. For example, his short story "The Vane Sisters" is famous in part for its acrostic final paragraph, in which the first letters of each word spell out a message from beyond the grave.

Nabokov's translation was the focus of a bitter polemic with Edmund Wilson and others; he had rendered the very precisely metered and rhyming novel in verse to (by his own admission) stumbling, non-rhymed prose. He argued that all verse translations of Onegin fatally betrayed the author's use of language; critics replied that failure to make the translation as beautifully styled as the original was a much greater betrayal.

Nabokov's Lectures on Literature at Cornell University where he was appointed an instructor in 1948, reveals his controversial ideas concerning art. He firmly believed that novels should not aim to teach and that readers should not merely empathise with characters but that a 'higher' aesthetic enjoyment should be attained, partly by paying great attention to details of style and structure. He detested what he saw as 'general ideas' in novels, and so when teaching Ulysses, for example, he would insist students keep an eye on where the characters were in Dublin (with the aid of a map) rather than teaching the complex Irish history that many critics see as being essential to an understanding of the novel.

During his ten years at Cornell, Nabokov introduced undergraduates to the delights of great fiction, including the Bleak House of Charles Dickens in fifty-minute classroom lectures .

Nabokov's detractors fault him for being an aesthete and for his over-attention to language and detail rather than character development. In his essay "Nabokov, or Nostalgia", Danilo Kiš wrote that Nabokov's is "a magnificent, complex, and sterile art." Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko said in a Playboy interview that he could hear the clatter of surgical tools in Nabokov's prose.

Not until glasnost did Nabokov's work become officially available in his native country. Gorbachev authorized a five-volume edition of his writing in 1988.

Nabokov was a synesthete and described aspects of synesthesia in several of his works. In his memoir Speak, Memory, he notes that his wife also exhibited synesthesia; like her husband, her mind's eye associated colors with particular letters. They discovered that Dmitri shared the trait, and moreover that the colors he associated with some letters were in some cases blends of his parents' hues—"which is as if genes were painting in aquarelle".

Vladimir Nabokov's case of synesthesia can be described in more detail than merely the association of colors with particular letters. For some synesthetes, letters are not simply associated with certain colors; they are colored. Nabokov frequently endowed his protagonists with a similar gift. In Bend Sinister Krug comments on his perception of the word "loyalty" as being like a golden fork lying out in the sun. In The Defense, Nabokov mentioned briefly how the main character's father, a writer, found he was unable to complete a novel that he planned to write, becoming lost in the fabricated storyline by "starting with colors." Many other subtle references are made in Nabokov's writing that can be traced back to his synesthesia. Many of his characters have a distinct "sensory appetite" reminiscent of synesthesia.

His career as an entomologist was equally distinguished. Throughout an extensive career of collecting he never learned to drive a car, and he depended on his wife Véra to take him to collecting sites. During the 1940s, as a research fellow in zoology, he was responsible for organizing the butterfly collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. His writings in this area were highly technical. This, combined with his specialty in the relatively unspectacular tribe Polyommatini of the family Lycaenidae, has left this facet of his life little explored by most admirers of his literary works. He identified the Karner Blue. The genus Nabokovia was named after him in honor of this work, as were a number of butterfly and moth species (e.g. many of the genera Madeleinea and Pseudolucia).

Many of Nabokov's fans have tried to ascribe literary value to his scientific papers, Gould notes. Conversely, others have claimed that his scientific work enriched his literary output. Gould advocates a third view, holding that the other two positions are examples of the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. Rather than assuming that either side of Nabokov's work caused or stimulated the other, Gould proposes that both stemmed from Nabokov's love of detail, contemplation and symmetry.

Nabokov spent considerable time during his exile on the composition of chess problems. Such compositions he published in the Russian émigré press, Poems and Problems (18 chess compositions) and Speak, Memory (1 problem). He describes the process of composing and constructing in his memoir: "The strain on the mind is formidable; the element of time drops out of one's consciousness..." To him, the "originality, invention, conciseness, harmony, complexity, and splendid insincerity" of creating a chess problem was similar to that in any other art.

What chance has a lonely surfer boy For the love of a surfer chick, With all these Humbert Humbert cats Coming on so big and sick? For me, my baby was a woman, For him she's just another nymphet.

It has also been argued that Pynchon's prose style is influenced by Nabokov's preference for actualism over realism. Of the authors who came to prominence during Nabokov's lifetime, John Banville, Don DeLillo, Salman Rushdie, and Edmund White were all influenced by Nabokov.

Several authors who came to prominence in the 1990s and 2000s have also cited Nabokov's work as a literary influence. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon listed Lolita and Pale Fire among the "books that, I thought, changed my life when I read them," and stated that "Nabokov's English combines aching lyricism with dispassionate precision in a way that seems to render every human emotion in all its intensity but never with an ounce of schmaltz or soggy language". Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides said that "Nabokov has always been and remains one of my favorite writers. He's able to juggle ten balls where most people can juggle three or four." T. Coraghessan Boyle said that "Nabokov's playfulness and the ravishing beauty of his prose are ongoing influences" on his writing, and Jhumpa Lahiri, Marisha Pessl, Zadie Smith and Ki Longfellow have also acknowledged Nabokov's influence.

Peter Medak's short television film, Nabokov on Kafka, is a dramatization of Nabokov's lectures on Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. The part of Nabokov is played by Christopher Plummer. Nabokov makes three cameo appearances, at widely scattered points in his life, in W. G. Sebald's The Emigrants.

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Rabbit Angstrom

Harold C. "Rabbit" Angstrom is the main character in four of John Updike's novels and one novella. Updike's Rabbit Series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit at Rest; Rabbit Remembered) follows Angstrom over the course of his lifetime as he struggles with many of the problems of middle-class American men in the second half of the twentieth century and—insofar as his problems deal with life, death, redemption and human relations—to all people.

Rabbit evolves as a character through forces of circumstance, but he does not seem to be able to accomplish anything extraordinary. At the same time, he is intelligent enough to understand his insignificance. Much of his life's problems involves his family—his wife, Janice; his parents; and his son, Nelson—as well as others, such as Ruth, a woman with whom he lives after deserting his wife for several months (and whom he in turn deserts after she becomes pregnant), Jill, an eighteen-year-old runaway from Connecticut who lives with him for several months when his wife has left him and who burns to death in his home when he is sleeping with another woman at her home, and Skeeter, a journeyman who exposes Rabbit to scathing socio-theological critiques of American society, drugs and crime, and later dies in a shoot-out with police. Rabbit makes modest efforts to succeed and lives a somewhat reflective interior life, but it appears his renown and success peaked in high school as a star of the Mt. Judge (Pennsylvania) basketball team. After his parents die, he recognizes that no one cares about his petty accomplishments. In accordance with the title of the first book, Rabbit often runs from his problems, headlong into other problems, then doubles back into the mess his flight has wrought.

Perhaps not coincidentally, an angstrom is also a unit of measure equal to one one hundred millionth of a centimeter.

A fictional character with parallels to Rabbit in terms of his life not living up to initial notions of success and excitement is Frederick Moreau, of Flaubert's Sentimental Education.

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The Witches of Eastwick


The Witches of Eastwick is a 1984 novel by John Updike.

The story, set in the fictional Rhode Island town of Eastwick in the late 1960s, follows the witches Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont, who acquired their powers after leaving or being left by their husbands. Their coven is upset by the arrival of a devil-like character, Darryl Van Horne. The mysterious Darryl seduces each of the women, encouraging them to play with their powers and creating a scandal in the town. The three women share Darryl in relative peace until he unexpectedly marries their young, innocent friend, Jenny, whom they resolve to have revenge on by giving her cancer through their magic. The witches doubt their judgment after Jenny's death when Darryl flees town with her younger brother, Chris, apparently his lover. In his wake he leaves their relationships strained and their sense of self in doubt. Eventually they each summon their ideal men and leave town. The Widows of Eastwick, John Updike's sequel to The Witches of Eastwick, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in October 2008.

Some have expressed concern that the book may be misogynistic, as it seems to reinforce the patriarchal conceptions of women as witches and of women requiring a man for personal growth; others believe that the book may be more of a satire of such ideas.

At the same time, there were those who praised the novel as a departure from John Updike's previous novels. This is the first novel where he truly develops the female characters.

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John Cheever


John Cheever (May 27, 1912 – June 18, 1982) was an American novelist and short story writer, sometimes called "the Chekhov of the suburbs." His fiction is mostly set in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the Westchester suburbs, old New England villages based on various South Shore towns around Quincy, Massachusetts, where he was born, and Italy, especially Rome. He "is now recognized as one of the most important short fiction writers of the twentieth century." Cheever is perhaps best remembered for his short stories (including "The Enormous Radio," "Goodbye, My Brother," "The Five-Forty-Eight," "The Country Husband," and "The Swimmer"), but also wrote a number of novels, such as The Wapshot Chronicle (National Book Award, 1958), The Wapshot Scandal (William Dean Howells Medal, 1965), Bullet Park (1969), and Falconer (1977). His main themes include the duality of human nature: sometimes dramatized as the disparity between a character's decorous social persona and inner corruption, and sometimes as a conflict between two characters (often brothers) who embody the salient aspects of both--light and dark, flesh and spirit. Many of his works also express a nostalgia for a vanishing way of life (as evoked by the mythical St. Botolphs in the Wapshot novels), characterized by abiding cultural traditions and a profound sense of community, as opposed to the alienating nomadism of modern suburbia. A compilation of his short stories, The Stories of John Cheever, won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. On April 27, 1982, six weeks before his death, Cheever was awarded the National Medal for Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

John William Cheever was the second child of Frederick Lincoln Cheever and Mary Liley Cheever. His father was a prosperous shoe salesman and Cheever spent much of his childhood in a large Victorian house in the genteel suburb of Wollaston, Massachusetts. In the mid-twenties, however, as the New England shoe and textile industries began their long decline, Frederick Cheever lost most of his money and began to drink heavily. To pay the bills, Mary Cheever opened a gift shop in downtown Quincy—an "abysmal humiliation" for the family, as her son John saw it. In 1926, Cheever began attending Thayer Academy, a private day school, but he found the atmosphere stifling and performed poorly, finally transferring to Quincy High in 1928. A year later he won a short story contest sponsored by the Boston Herald and was invited back to Thayer as a "special student" on academic probation. His grades continued to be poor, however, and, in March 1930, he was either expelled for smoking or (more likely) departed of his own accord when the headmaster delivered an ultimatum to the effect that he must either apply himself or leave. The eighteen-year-old Cheever wrote a sardonic account of this experience, "Expelled," which was subsequently published in The New Republic.

Around this time, Cheever's older brother Fred—recalled from Dartmouth in 1926 because of the family's financial crisis—re-entered his life "when the situation was most painful and critical," as John later wrote. After the bankruptcy (in 1932) of Kreuger & Toll, in which Frederick Cheever had invested what was left of his money, the Cheever house on Winthrop Avenue was lost to foreclosure. The parents separated, while John and Fred took an apartment together on Beacon Hill, in Boston. In 1933, John wrote to Elizabeth Ames, the director of the Yaddo artist's colony in Saratoga Springs, New York: "The idea of leaving the city," he said, "has never been so distant or desirable." Ames denied his first application, but offered him a place the following year, whereupon Cheever decided to sever his "ungainly attachment" to his brother. (Passages in Cheever's journal suggest—without stating conclusively—that his relationship with Fred may have been sexual.) Cheever spent the summer of 1934 at Yaddo, which would serve as a second home for much of his life.

For the next few years, Cheever divided his time between Manhattan, Saratoga, Lake George (where he was caretaker of the Yaddo-owned Triuna Island), and Quincy, where he continued to visit his parents, who had reconciled and moved to an apartment at 60 Spear Street. Cheever drove from one place to another in a dilapidated Model A roadster, but had no permanent address. In 1935, Katharine White of The New Yorker bought Cheever's story, "Buffalo," for $45--the first of many that Cheever would publish in the magazine. In 1938, he began work for the Federal Writers' Project in Washington, D. C., which he considered an embarrassing boondoggle. As an editor for the WPA Guide to New York City, Cheever was charged with (as he put it) "twisting into order the sentences written by some incredibly lazy bastards." He quit after less than a year and a few months later he met his future wife, Mary Winternitz, daughter of Milton Winternitz, dean of Yale Medical School, and granddaughter of Thomas A. Watson, an assistant to Alexander Graham Bell during the invention of the telephone. The couple was married in 1941.

Cheever enlisted in the Army on May 7, 1942, and his first collection, The Way Some People Live, was published the following year to mixed reviews. Cheever himself came to despise the book as "embarrassingly immature," and for the rest of his life endeavored to destroy every copy he could lay his hands on. The book arguably saved his life, however, when it fell into the hands of Major Leonard Spigelgass, an MGM executive and officer in the Army Signal Corps, who was struck by Cheever's "childlike sense of wonder." Early that summer, Cheever was transferred to the former Paramount studio in Astoria, Queens, where he commuted via subway from his apartment in Chelsea: meanwhile, most of his old infantry company was killed on Normandy Beach during the D-Day invasion. Cheever's daughter Susan was born on July 31, 1943.

After the war, Cheever moved his family to an apartment building at 400 East Fifty-ninth Street, near Sutton Place; almost every morning for the next five years, he would dress in his only suit and take the elevator to a maid's room in the basement, where he stripped to his boxer shorts and wrote until lunchtime. In 1946, he accepted a $4,800 advance from Random House to resume work on his novel, The Holly Tree, which he had discontinued during the war. "The Enormous Radio" appeared in the May 17, 1947, issue of The New Yorker-- a Kafkaesque tale about a sinister radio that broadcasts the private conversations of tenants in a New York apartment building. A startling advance on Cheever's early, more naturalistic work, the story elicited a fan letter from the magazine's irascible editor, Harold Ross: "It will turn out to be a memorable one, or I am a fish." Cheever's son Benjamin was born on May 4, 1948.

Cheever's work became longer and more complex, apparently a protest against the "slice of life" fiction typical of The New Yorker in those years. An early draft of "The Day the Pig Fell into the Well"--a long story with elaborate Chekhovian nuances, meant to "operate something like a rondo," as Cheever wrote his friend and New Yorker editor William Maxwell--was completed in 1949, though the magazine did not make space for it until five years later. In 1951, Cheever wrote one of his finest stories, "Goodbye, My Brother," after a gloomy summer in Martha's Vineyard. Largely on the strength of these two stories (still in manuscript at the time), Cheever was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. On May 28, 1951, Cheever moved to "Beechwood," the suburban estate of Frank A. Vanderlip in Scarborough-on-Hudson, Westchester, where he rented a small cottage on the edge of the estate.

Cheever's second collection, The Enormous Radio, was published in 1953. Reviews were mostly positive, though Cheever's reputation continued to suffer because of his close association with The New Yorker (considered middlebrow by many critics), and he was particularly pained by the general preference for J. D. Salinger's Nine Stories, published around the same time. Meanwhile, Random House demanded that Cheever either produce a publishable novel or pay back his advance, whereupon Cheever wrote Mike Bessie at Harper & Brothers ("These old bones are up for sale"), who bought him out of his Random House contract. In the summer of 1956, Cheever finished The Wapshot Chronicle while vacationing in Friendship, Maine, and received a congratulatory telegram from William Maxwell: "WELL ROARED LION." With the proceeds from the sale of film rights to "The Housebreaker of Shady Hill," Cheever and his family spent the following year in Italy, where his son Federico was born on March 9, 1957 ("We wanted to call him Frederick," Cheever wrote, "but there is of course no K in the alphabet here and I gave up after an hour or two").

The Wapshot Scandal was published in 1964, and received perhaps the best reviews of Cheever's career up to that point (amid quibbles about the novel's episodic structure). Cheever appeared on the cover of Time magazine's March 27 issue-- this for an appreciative profile, "Ovid in Ossining." (In 1961 Cheever had moved to a stately, stone-ended Dutch Colonial farmhouse in Ossining, on the east bank of the Hudson.) "The Swimmer" appeared in the July 18 issue of The New Yorker. Cheever noted with chagrin that the story (one of his best) appeared toward the back of the issue-- behind a John Updike story-- since, as it happened, Maxwell and other editors at the magazine were a little bewildered by its non-New Yorkerish surrealism. In the summer of 1966, a screen adaptation of "The Swimmer," starring Burt Lancaster, was filmed in Westport, Connecticut, where Cheever was a frequent visitor on the set and did a cameo for the movie.

By then Cheever's alcoholism had become severe, exacerbated by torment concerning his bisexuality. Still, he blamed most of his marital woes on his wife, and in 1966 he consulted a psychiatrist, David C. Hays, about her hostility and "needless darkness." After a session with Mary Cheever, the psychiatrist asked to see the couple jointly; Cheever, heartened, believed his wife's difficult behavior would finally be addressed. At the joint session, however, Dr. Hays claimed (as Cheever noted in his journal) that Cheever himself was the problem: "a neurotic man, narcissistic, egocentric, friendless, and so deeply involved in own defensive illusions that invented a manic-depressive wife." Cheever soon terminated therapy.

Bullet Park was published in 1969, and received a devastating review from Benjamin DeMott on the front page of The New York Times Book Review: "John Cheever's short stories are and will remain lovely birds . . . But in the gluey atmosphere of Bullet Park no birds sing." Cheever's alcoholic depression deepened, and in May he resumed psychiatric treatment (which again proved fruitless). He began an affair with actress Hope Lange in the late 1960s.

On May 12, 1973, Cheever awoke coughing uncontrollably, and learned at the hospital that he had almost died from pulmonary edema caused by alcoholism. After a month in the hospital, he returned home vowing never to drink again; however, he resumed drinking in August. Despite his precarious health, he spent the fall semester teaching (and drinking) at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where his students included T. C. Boyle, Allan Gurganus, and Ron Hansen. As his marriage continued to deteriorate, Cheever accepted a professorship at Boston University the following year and moved into a fourth-floor walkup apartment at 71 Bay State Road. Cheever's drinking soon became suicidal and, in March 1975, his brother Fred--now virtually indigent, but sober after his own lifelong bout with alcoholism--drove John back to Ossining. On April 9, Cheever was admitted to the Smithers Alcoholic Rehabilitation Unit in New York, where he shared a bedroom and bath with four other men. Driven home by his wife on May 7, Cheever never drank alcohol again.

In March, 1977, Cheever appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine with the caption, "A Great American Novel: John Cheever's 'Falconer.'" The novel was Number One on the New York Times Best Seller list for three weeks. The Stories of John Cheever appeared in October, 1978, and became one of the most successful collections ever, selling 125,000 copies in hardback and winning universal acclaim.

In the summer of 1981, a tumor was discovered in Cheever's right kidney and, in late-November, he returned to the hospital and learned that the cancer had spread to his femur, pelvis, and bladder. Cheever's last novel, Oh What a Paradise It Seems, was published in March, 1982; only a hundred pages long and relatively inferior (as Cheever himself suspected), the book received respectful reviews in part because it was widely known the author was dying of cancer. On April 27, he received the National Medal for Literature at Carnegie Hall, where colleagues were shocked by Cheever's ravaged appearance after months of cancer therapy. "A page of good prose," he declared in his remarks, "remains invincible." As John Updike remembered, "All the literary acolytes assembled there fell quite silent, astonished by such faith." He died on June 18, 1982.

In 1987, Cheever's widow, Mary, signed a contract with a small publisher, Academy Chicago, for the right to publish Cheever's uncollected short stories. The contract led to a long legal battle and a book of 13 stories by the author, published in 1994. Two of Cheever's children, Susan and Benjamin, became writers. Susan Cheever's memoir, Home Before Dark (1984), revealed Cheever's bisexuality, which was confirmed by his posthumously published letters and journals.

After Blake Bailey published his biography of Richard Yates, A Tragic Honesty (2003), Cheever's son Ben suggested he write an authoritative biography of Cheever. The book was published by Knopf on March 10, 2009.

Cheever's son Federico is a professor at the Sturm College of Law, where he teaches property and environmental law.

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Source : Wikipedia