Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey

I’m loving this 2009 biography.

I love the insights into body use in this quote from Cheever: “In an upper-class gathering I suddenly think of myself as a pariah—a small and dirty fraud, a deserved outcast, a spiritual and sexual impostor, a loathsome thing. Then I take a deep breath, stand up straight, and the loathsome image falls away."

Cheever, a bisexual, was deeply worried about his son Ben’s masculinity. Bailey writes: "Ben…zestfully took up a lot of manly chores, like felling trees and splitting wood, for which his grateful father paid him fifty cents an hour. Somestimes after these exertions the boy would reward himself with a bubble bath — until one day his father found him reclining among the suds. "Who do you think you are?" he roared. "Some kind of STARLET?"

In 1954 Cheever got a job teaching writing. "One woman liked to write erotica, and Cheever would listen to her stories with a polite poker-face — evidently finding them distasteful, but willing to be patient. He raised one mild objection, however, when she described a man abruptly withdrawing his penis and thus forgoing climax: "There is no recorded instance in history when a man was able to do this," he said."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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