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Home Before Dark (Contemporary Classics (Washington Square Press)) Paperback – January 1, 1999


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Home Before Dark (Contemporary Classics (Washington Square Press)) + Reading My Father: A Memoir + Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary Classics (Washington Square Press)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (January 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671028502
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671028503
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #414,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Newsweek A fine, very brave book...one of the best portraits of an American writer.

The New York Times Book Review Intimate, deeply felt, and often harrowing.

John Updike Whatever biographers and literary historians of the future make of John Cheever, their ur-text, their indespensible place of beginning will have to be Susan Cheever's beautiful book about her father.

The Washington Post Book World One of the most moving and intimate books I have read in years.

The Wall Street Journal A restrained and haunting elegy.

The New York Times Book Review Home Before Dark clearly demanded more from its author, more courage and force of heart than will be required of any biographer of John Cheever.

Los Angeles Herald Examiner Out of the pain of real life Susan Cheever has created a document that is ultimately a paean to family love, as humane and bittersweet as the best of her father's work, and as completely believable....her depictions of a family, albeit an extraordinary one, in extremis reads like the best fiction.

Joyce Carol Oates A powerful book -- beautifully written....I don't know when I have read anything that absorbed me more.

Chicago Tribune Book World An act of love, a compassionate, well-written account not just of the father, or the writer, but of the whole man -- his exhilerations and his darker impulses.

About the Author

Susan Cheever is the bestselling author of thirteen previous books, including five novels and the memoirs Note Found in a Bottle and Home Before Dark. Her work has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Boston Globe Winship Medal. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a member of the Corporation of Yaddo, and a member of the Author's Guild Council. She teaches in the Bennington College M.F.A. program. She lives in New York City with her family.

More About the Author

I was born in New York City and have lived here on and off my entire life--in fact I went to nursery school a few blocks from where I write this. It took me a long time to admit I was a writer--I had a career as a teacher and I loved it. When I was married I couldn't get a teaching job so by an amazing stroke of luck I went to work for my local small town newspaper. After a long time as a newspaper and magazine journalist, I took off to write a novel when I was 35 and I haven't looked back.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
If you are interested in how a family impacts each other, this is a good read.
donna a weigert
What makes Cheever's stories such a joy it that he loves the world he writes about -- even as he recognizes its banalities and limitations.
Charles Slack
The shocking bankruptcy and abandonment of his father remained a basis for his great insecurity throughout his life.
Shalom Freedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Charles Slack on December 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
Home Before Dark is a beautifully written, moving book that stays with you long after you have finished reading it. It helps that Susan Cheever's subject, her father, was (and remains long after his death) one of the finest fiction writers in the history of American literature. What distinguishes John Cheever's stories, outside of his magical touch with words, is the passion and love he brings to illuminating his small corner of the world -- life in the New York suburbs of the 1950s and 1960s. Most writers who explore the suburbs do so with an arm's length superiority -- taking pains to distance themselves politically, emotionally, and intellectually from their characters. What makes Cheever's stories such a joy it that he loves the world he writes about -- even as he recognizes its banalities and limitations. In Cheever's hand, the commuter life becomes a sad, beautiful symphony of lost hopes and desires. The 5:45 train, the clinking of cocktail glasses, the smell of meat cooking on an outdoor grill are not just dull routines of modern life, but thrilling and exotic elements of that peculiarly American optimism and quest for success that flowered after World War II -- all the more alluring because the quest is so often doomed.
In the same way, Susan Cheever brings passion and honesty to the telling of her father's life. In her hands, John Cheever's own outwardly unremarkable search for the suburban dream life of wife, kids, dog and station wagon in Ossining, New York becomes a dark romantic quest of longing, passion, success and disappointment. She is thoroughly honest (sometimes brutally so) in detailing Cheever's alcoholism, philandering, phobias and parental shortcomings -- so it is all the more remarkable that the final portrait of Cheever that emerges is so rich and full of love.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ted Ficklen on June 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a memoir of a daughter's relationship with her father, this is very touching, but there is little here that sheds much light on John Cheever, the writer. Given the various levels of family dysfunction and unhappiness in Cheever's stories and novels, it is gratifying that his daughter found so much to love in her father. For a more abrasive, but still admiring view of the man, you might also enjoy reading Benjamin Cheever's novel, The Plagiarist.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Black Panthers Speak is the BEST book out for Americans who want to know what the Panthers stood for. Nobody's interpretation of what the Panthers were about, but only the speeches, letters, and court transcripts of Black Panther members. This book should be read by Americans of ALL ethnicities. Use it to understand that the Black Panthers were a party for ALL people in the struggle for freedom.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on March 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a very interesting look at the demons of the father, from alcoholism to a confused sexuality that wreaked havoc on his family. John Cheever forged a career writing about his own issues, tales of disillusion and disintegration in suburbia, all to alcoholic excess and in search of meaning. Susan, his daughter, is an absolutely excellent writer and explains what he was like as she grew up, so it is not a straight biography but mixed with memoire. Some of it is shocking, such as the way John periodically left to be with men, only to come back to a wife he clearly loved enduringly. But there is also a lot of redemption, of striving to be better though the pain is ever present. Oddly, I have never liked his writing much, finding his personal problems more of a spectacle and indeed more absorbing to learn about. Susan, I think, is the true writing talent in the family - her style is clear and unflinchingly honest, almost exhibitionistic. Few expose themselves so evenhandedly. Indeed, her moments are unforgettably vivid: such as her sitting in the lap of a drunken guest writer, in a tweed jacket reeking of cigarette smoke, saying to herself that she would marry that kind of man; or watching her father, after a few hours of writing and overcoming a hangover, pruning his lawn with ritual energy.

Truly a beautiful, often tormented, book. Warmly recommended.
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful By JB on May 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Knowing absolutely nothing about the Black Panthers I picked up this collection one day and read nearly straight through it. I came away with what I think is a fairly good idea of the goals of the Black Panther Party, not the same one I had generally heard or been taught growing up. Instead of them being the black racists many tend to think they are, what would be the equal opposite of the KKK (who, versus the Panthers' few years of existence, have been operating for more than 100 years), I learned that they could be more adequately labeled as classists, in the Marxist-Lenin tradition. As Eldridge Cleaver, one-time minister of information for the Black Panther Party, "You speak of an 'undying love' for black people. An undying love for black people that denies the humanity of other people is doomed. It was an undying love of white people for each other which led them to deny the humanity of colored people and which has stripped white people of humanity itself." I don't see a lot of "hating whitey" there, as Horowitz and other conservatives would have you believe, but more of a gelling together of the dregs of humanity in an attempt to alter its condition, the stance that Malcolm X eventually evolved to, and, later, the Panthers.
Perhaps we as humanity have come a ways, maybe thanks to them, since the Panthers first took up arms, defying the police to beat, shoot or incarcerate them. I say this because eight years ago a similar movement began in the southern highlands of Mexico, another marginalized group taking up arms in order to say,"Take notice, we're not taking it anymore." Instead of being branded thugs and criminals, the Zapatistas captured the hearts and minds of the world and continue their quest for equal rights and protection under the law.
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