This was the longest and most daunting of the book selections so far at over 700 pages and including over 60 stories written over the course of Cheever’s career. During the discussion of the short stories many different things were discussed including the below.
- The role of the short story in the history of American Literature and how Cheever and the magazine he published the most frequently in, the New Yorker, fit into this history. It was interesting to learn that several MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programs in writing call Cheever’s collected short stories the “Orange Bible,” and consider him to be at the height of short story craftsmanship. It was also interesting to learn from the facilitator that though Cheever is thought of as writing realistic stories, it is his surreal stories like “The Swimmer” or “The Enormous Radio” for which he is best known.
- Several reading group participants noted Cheever’s careful and skillful use of language and imagery in his writing. Together the reading group took a close look at key phrases and sentences in several stories.
- The group discussed if part of Cheever’s popularity was due in part to a bias toward New York centered fiction from both publishers and literary award committees.
- The group further discussed the literature of the postwar suburbs and how Cheever fit into this tradition. Other important works about the suburbs of 1950s America, such as Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road, and the New Yorker short stories of John Updike, were discussed and were on the book truck display during the meeting.