John Cheever turns 100.
I come, not to bury Cheever, but to praise him.
John was my teacher then my friend. Forty years later I write early every morning, like him. Like him, instead of deciding what new work to read I reread Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart.” I have never let one of my students pay for lunch. Two strong bourbons are now my wild outer limit, unlike him. But that lesson also comes from John. Unlike Cheever, I’ve never made a sexual move on one of my students, even when they beg. (And lately there’s been far too little begging.)
John Cheever, now unfairly known as the gloomy, sodden satyr of suburbia, was at least rarely gloomy. Fact is he was more fun per minute than is legal in a nation this Republican. If his fiction still throws off salt spray and blinding daylight, his company amused, intrigued, specialized in dares. He always wanted to have a good time. “What’ll we try for fun now, and next, and…?”