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Customer Review

54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant biography, superb criticism, March 27, 2009
This review is from: Cheever: A Life (Hardcover)
As biographies go, this is a page-turner. Even though one knows the broad outline of the story (downwardly mobile youth, short story writer for the New Yorker, alcoholic, bisexual, years as an out-of-print failure, eventual sobriety, author of late-in-life best seller, redemption shortly followed by death, and being outed in a daughter's memoir), the more detailed story is riveting in a painful, compelling way. It always hurts to see people you love miserable and self-destructive, but that is just the picture that Bailey gives us. With total access to all of Cheever's journals, published and unpublished, and with the cooperation of Cheever's wife and three grown children, he takes us farther than we sometimes would wish into the head of this tortured lion. But what makes this book a two-fer is the quality of the literary criticism. Even books you think you know well, like The Wapshot Chronicle, benefit from the analytical light that Bailey shines on them. Cheever was a genius, and he lived a tragic life that was both sad and monumental. He couldn't have asked for a better, more unflinching biographer than he now has.
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Location: Boston, MA

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