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Bullet Park Paperback – January 15, 1992

4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"John Cheever is an enchanted realist, and his voice, in his luminous short stories and in incomparable novels like Bullet Park and Falconer, is as rich and distinctive as any of the leading voices of postwar American literature." —Philip Roth

"Cheever's deepest, most challenging book. It has the tone of a summing-up and the tension of a vision." —The New York Times

"A master American storyteller." —Time

"In a class by itself, not only among Cheever's work but among all the novels I know." —Joseph Heller

"John Cheever's prose is always a pleasure to read because it is both graceful and governed." —Chicago Tribune

About the Author

John Cheever, best known for his short stories dealing with upper-middle-class suburban life, was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1912. Cheever published his first short story at the age of seventeen. He was the recipient of a 1951 Guggenheim Fellowship and winner of a National Book Award for The Wapshot Chronicle in 1958, the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Stories of John Cheever, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and an American Book Award. He died in 1982, at the age of seventy.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage international ed edition (January 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679737871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679737872
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #643,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The realm of much of Cheever's fiction is the affluent suburban sprawl of Thruway-threaded upstate New York, Westchester County and environs. Like the infamous Shady Hill of his short stories, Bullet Park is a whitebread outpost for white-collar professionals who commute daily to the city and drink heavily on weekends, and often weekdays. In a comfortable house on a comfortable street in this town lives Eliot Nailles, a chemist whose specialty is mouthwash and who plies his craft with the conviction that bad breath can lead to global destruction, a respectable family man devoted to his wife Nellie and his teenage son Tony, and an avid churchgoer, although more out of a sense of duty than piety.

Tony's privileged status as an only child and a middle class Baby Boomer has bred an adolescence painful both to himself and to his parents, and he still continues to teeter on the brink of knuckleheadedness. With the insight of a child psychologist and the wisdom of an embattled father, Cheever recounts Tony's various phases: his addiction to television, his threat against his French teacher, his strange sudden interest in poetry, the brash older woman he invites to his parents' house for lunch, and especially his mysterious depression which confines him to bed for weeks and requires the healing power of a "swami" whose idea of therapy is to repeat mantras.

One day a man named Paul Hammer and his wife Marietta move into Bullet Park and befriend the Nailleses.
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Format: Paperback
I remember reading this book when it came out, and feeling disappointed that it wasn't a more powerful, apocalyptic novel. Those were the 60s after all, a time when we still looked to our novels for the answers to the day's problems. Cheever wasn't interested in solving problems. As we now know, he was torn in a psychic split between different parts of his identity--the average family man, colorless and yet possessed by a love divine, vs. the bisexual swinger who lives for sensation and the authenticity of the gutter.

BULLET PARK represents this conflict in allegorical terms, and now I can see that the two neighbors and antagonists, Nailles and Hammer, form two halves of the same person. Well, that's a crude way of putting it, but at any rate reading back into the biography they perhaps represent two of Cheever's warring personalities, and in their conflict over the future of Tony Nailles, the appealing teenage son, they are going to war themselves. At stake is nothing less than the future of American literature.

I always thought this would have been a good movie--back in the day I wrote Cheever a note asking him to make sure that Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas would play Hammer and Nailles in the film version. He was polite but non-committal. And I don't know who would be good among today's actors. I picked Lancaster and Douglas because those two, who of course made many pictures together, gave off the almost untangible sensation of somehow having been made for each other, like the way Plato wrote that we are all looking for the other half of the soul we were once part of. Thus even when they were playing antagonists, Lancaster and Douglas still seemed to be seeking each other out, not in an erotic way especially, but in a search for meaning that would never end.
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Format: Hardcover
John Cheever, the master chronicler of suburbia, wrote a great novel of the odd suburb Bullet Park. As John Updike said, "It took an effortlessly moral nature to imagine fall and redemption in that realm of soft lawns and comfortable homes." It is a simple story, but its greatness lies in its telling. From the first sentence, "Paint me a small railroad station then, ten minutes before dark," Bullet Park ensnares the reader in its strange web. It also contains some of the most wonderful sentences ever written, such as this one, "Outside I could hear the brook, some night bird, moving leaves, and all the sounds of the night world seemed endearing as if I quite literally loved the night as one loves a woman, loved the stars, the trees, the weeds in the grass as one can love with the same ardor a woman's breasts and the applecore she has left in an ashtray."
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Format: Audio Cassette
Yay! I loved this book. Finally, an author that doesn't have to break into four page long philosophical tangents to get his point across. By making this story an actual story, I think Cheever gives the reader the chance to decipher the metaphor of suburbia for his/herself. Not only is it profound, but it's entertaining as well--a rarity in classic fiction, I believe.
And this was extremely entertaining and well written. I enjoyed being able to define the characters through their actions (not through several paragraphs of interspection) although classifying them is not as clear cut. There are elements involved with both Hammer and Nailles that apply to the "every man".
The "villian" is the one who attempts to "save" America, and the "hero" unknowingly stops the horrific action that would have destroyed his family. The layers in this novel pile on each other, but the density is masked within the constant forward motion of the plot. Great book!
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