Participate in the Pulitzer Dialogues

Read 5 Pulitzer Titles in 5 Months!

To commemorate the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes, six libraries from across New Mexico are partnering with the New Mexico Humanities C...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Questions for Donnelly Library's Discussion of the Stories of John Cheever

Donnelly Library’s Pulitzer Prize Challenge reading group has its third meeting on Thursday, October 13. Below are a few questions to think about for the upcoming discussion.

Take a look at the questions and please post your own questions or discussion points for these short stories in the comments below.

  1. The Pulitzer Prize for fiction is awarded to a book "preferably dealing with American life." What do Cheever's short stories say about American life? What parts of the American experience do they draw on?
  2. How reliable are the narrators of Cheever's stories? Do they tell the truth about their situations and the other characters in the stories?
  3. What do the characters in these short stories want? What is a happy ending in Cheever's stories? What are readers supposed to take away from these stories? 
  4. Why do Cheever's stories set in a particular place and time still resonate in 2016? What is the enduring appeal of stories of the suburbs? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Intro to John Cheever and Questions for Goodbye, My Brother

Hello everyone!  I am writing this post as a brief biography and background about John Cheever and am giving you a few questions about the first story we are discussing.

John Cheever was born on May 27, 1912, in Quincy, Massachusetts. His father owned a shoe factory until he lost it due to the Great Depression of the 1930s (a time of severe economic hardship). His mother owned a gift shop and supported the family with the shop's profits.

The style of writing that John Cheever is known for follows the plot line:  the characters are good people who begin life with a sense of well-being and order. Later that order and well-being are stripped away and never quite fully restored.  These are themes that inundate a genre of literature known as "Cheever country."

In the end Cheever could not fit the image he carefully developed for himself— much like the fictional characters he created. John Cheever died of cancer on June 18, 1982.

By now you should have read the first story in The Stories of John Cheever.  In "Goodbye, My Brother," there are several themes:  paralysis, letting go, change, acceptance and denial.  These are all brought together in the story of a family.  Consider the following questions as you read or re-read the story:

1.  How does the house symbolize the relationship between family members?
2.  What do the wedding dress worn by Helen and the old football uniform worn by the narrator symbolize?

3.  What role does Lawrence play in the family?  What role does he play in the events of the story?
4.  Who changes in the story and who doesn't?  

Post your thoughts or questions if you have any about this story.  Stay tuned for more questions about "The Five-Forty-Eight."