Tina Jordan
March 17, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Cheever: A Life

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Blake Bailey
publisher
Knopf
genre
Nonfiction, Biography

We gave it an A+

He may have been one of the great American 20th-century writers, but John Cheever wanted nothing more than to be one of the WASPy country squires of his stories and novels. Yet his navy cashmere overcoats and Brooks Brothers shirts concealed a man both tormented and tormenting: a loving family man who heaped abuse upon his wife and children; an alcoholic ravaged by the disease; a man deeply conflicted about his bisexuality and raging libido (dying from cancer, he wrote he had become aroused ”at the smell of bacon”). Blake Bailey’s exhaustively researched but compulsively readable work brings Cheever to gin-reeking life. Cheever: A Life is, quite simply, the best example of literary biography I have ever read. A+

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