Stories of John Cheever, Stories of Drudgery

Hello, reader. Just jumping back in to publicly complain about this Pulitzer journey that I, of sound mind and body, am willingly subjecting myself to despite the endless unhappiness it’s bringing me.

I don’t have anything deep and insightful to say about John Cheever’s short stories (simply called The Stories of John Cheever, winner of the 1979 prize). They are written by a minimalist who shows rather than tells—to a fault, honestly, because sometimes his characters’ reactions to plot points confuse me. (Why you crying, lady who I had no idea was sad?) But he’s a skilled writer, and I have few complaints about his proficiency as a storytelling technician. I’ll take minimalism before labored overexplaining any day.

But, bless him, there is no experience more dreary than reading an entire book of this stuff. Every story is just sooooo bleak. Not just depressing—I mean a gray wash of quiet but relentless despair. I’m like 25% of the way through the collection of short stories, and I’m like, “dear jesus, when is this going to be over?” I don’t know if I will be psychologically whole by the end of it.

Note: keep in mind, this complaint of how dreary these stories are is coming from the person who could write a whole novel about Crime and Punishment and who trips over herself to fawn over every word Dostoyevsky has put to paper. Also, I love Thomas Hardy, so that should tell you what you need to know. It’s not that I shy away from dark works or sad works.

It’s just getting through this collection of literary rainclouds is a new level of drudgery.


I mean, I could make it stop. I could just quit reading it. But that would make me a quitter. And I’m not a quitter, JOHN. I push through my misery so that I might attain new depths of deeper, more…miserable…misery. And I sneeze it all over the internet for y’all to, ahem, *exaggerated air quotes* “enjoy.”

This is it. That’s all I have to say. Thanks for tuning into this complaint fest. Hopefully I can dip in here in another six months or a year to treat you to another post you can “enjoy.”