Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jill Krementz Photo Journal - Cheever: A Life

Cheever: A Life
Madison Square Park, Thursday, July 30th

John Cheever wrote some of the greatest short stories of the 20th century. On Thursday evening, at 6 pm, there will be a discussion of his life and work. The participants will be Susan Cheever, Brett Anthony Johnson, who heads the creative writing department at Harvard, Blake Bailey, Cheever’s biographer, and Max Rudin, the publisher of the Library of America.

The event is free and open to the public and is at the Farragut Monument, Madison Avenue at 25th Street. If the weather is nice, it will be outside. If it’s raining, there will be a tent.

The Farragut Monument was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, whose work is presently on view at The Metropolitan Museum.
John Cheever in Ossining, NY. October 1, 1971.
The sense is of one’s total usefulness. We all have a power of control, it’s part of our lives; we have it in love, in work that we love doing. It’s a sense of ecstasy, as simple as that. It always leaves you feeling great. In short you’ve made sense of your life.

All sorts of pleasant and intelligent people read my books and write thoughtful letters about them. I don’t know who they are, but they are marvelous and seem to live quite independently of the prejudices of advertising, journalism, and the cranky academic world .... The room where I work has a window looking into a wood, and I like to think that these earnest, loveable, and mysterious readers are in there.
John Cheever with Flora, a yellow Labrador retriever.
I don’t think that a writer has any responsibility to view literature as a continuous process. I believe that very little of literature is immortal.
Cheever in his backyard in Ossining, NY. August 26, 1976.
Fiction must compete with first-rate reporting. If you cannot write a story that is equal to a factual account of battle in the streets of demonstrations, then you can’t write a story.
The words ‘truth’ and ‘fiction’ have no meaning at all unless they are fixed in a comprehensible frame of reference. There are no stubborn truths. As for lying, it seems to me that falsehood is a critical element in fiction. Part of the thrill of being told a story is the chance of being hoodwinked or taken .... The telling of lies is a sort of sleight of hand that displays our deepest feelings about life.
I think writers are inclined to be intensely egocentric. Good writers are often excellent at a hundred other things, but writing promises a greater latitude of the ego. My dear friend Yevteshenko has, I claim, an ego that can crack crystal at a distance of twenty feet.
John Cheever with his wife Mary at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. May 18, 1977.
John Cheever with Malcolm Cowley at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. May 18, 1977. Cheever sold his first short story, Expelled, to Cowley, who at time was the editor of The New Republic.
John Cheever with John McPhee at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. May 18, 1977.
John Cheever with Leon Edel (left) and Lillian Hellman (right) at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. May 17, 1978.
John Cheever with Mary the night he won the National Book Critics Circle Award. January 25, 1979.
John Cheever with his friend, John Updike, at the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.