Stream John Cheever: “The Death of Justina” by 92Y from desktop or your mobile device. Here is one of twelve magnificent stories, originally part of The John Cheever Audio Collection, in which John Cheever celebrates — with unequaled grace and. . John Cheever and The Death of Justina. CN. Ceara Nolan. Updated 11 June Transcript. -Born May 27th in Quincy, Massachusetts. -He had a.

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Time and Balance in John Cheever, born two years after the Russian master died, spent much of his literary career examining both sorts, and the forces that drive wedges between family members or bind them together. Arlin Meyer has singled out as one of Cheever’s consistent subjects “the family and the intricate web of emotional and moral concerns which compose it” Among these concerns, one jutsina Cheever explores in considerable depth in his short fiction is the relationship between brothers.

Some of the brother pairs he creates are primarily sympathetic, others almost primordially antagonistic, but taken together they develop two of Cheever’s main themes: Favorite books he gave away; letters and other personal papers he burned. His mustina image remains largely that of the urbane New Yorker writer, spinning tales of suburban married life and cocktail-party intrigue, but his fiction often harshly criticizes the world it evokes so well.

Applegate, rector of Christ Church, prays drunkenly during Christmas Eve Mass for the victims of such a world:. Let us pray for all those killed or cruelly wounded on thruways, expressways, freeways and turnpikes. Let us pray for all those burned to death in faulty plane-landings, mid-air collisions and mountainside crashes.

Let us pray for all those wounded by rotary lawn mowers, chain saws, electric hedge clippers and other power tools…. The architecture of the station One character is sucked under an express train, leaving only chheever loafer behind.

When brothers appear in his stories they tend to take center stage, and they figure prominently in his novels as well.

What We Keep: Time and Balance in the Brother Stories of John Cheever

The Wapshot Chronicle traces in comic-picaresque fashion the wanderings of teenagers Moses and Coverly Wapshot, and The Wapshot Scandal follows them into adulthood. In both books Moses and Coverly are very close yet very different personalities — Moses the capable and handsome one, Coverly more sensitive and diffident. The cheeber novel, Bullet Parkhas no brothers but offers a pair of main characters who function in much the same way.

A number of critics have seen these deahh, named Oc and Nailles, as schematic variants on the brothers-in-conflict theme. Cheever’s last work of fiction, the brief and elegiac Oh What a Paradise It Seemscontains no filial conflict at all. Cheever seems by then, the year he died, to have gotten the theme out of his system.

Book-length studies of Cheever’s work are perhaps naturally weighted toward the novels rather than the approximately stories, with their more limited individual focus and field of play.

Justnia Cheever made his reputation as a short story writer, and the bulk of his published work is in that form. He published his first story twenty-seven years before his first novel; the intervening decades saw nearly of his stories in print. Cheever’s story output decreased somewhat as he made his mark as a novelist, but the publication in of The Short Stories of John Cheevera selection of sixty-one of his finest, reconfirmed in readers’ and critics’ eyes his mastery of the form.

The themes of Cheever’s novels run through his stories and often appear there first, worked out within tight fictional boundaries before being amplified in the novels.

In “The CountryHusband” two sons and a daughter are introduced and as quickly forgotten, and in “Percy” the narrator unobtrusively mentions taking as Jlhn did a walking iustina of Germany jusrina his brother, who then disappears for good.

Elsewhere when brothers appear they dominate, and their relationship is generally one of conflict. It might be objected, of course, that in the short story, of all forms, gratuitous minor characters dilute the narrative flow.

Why toss in a sibling who merely skulks around a story’s perimeter? This consideration does not account, though, for the scarcity of marginal brothers in Cheever’s fiction. Its dozens of families abound with children of minimal narrative importance. Yet with the above exceptions none are brothers, who simply do not play minor roles in Cheever’s world.

One or more daughters turn up in seven stories, a single son fills out the cast of three, sister-brother combinations figure in five more, and in several others there are references to unnamed offspring of still lesser stature. When Cheever needs marginal children to round out a fictional family, he makes them brother-sister or sister-sister.


Nowhere does he examine such a relationship in depth. When he elevates a filial conflict to importance, he invariably chooses brothers. Seven years older than John, Frederick Cheever was a major influence in his life and the object of both his warm affection and icy resentment. Wary like many authors of discussing the confluence of fact and fiction, Cheever was especially so regarding Frederick, even in interviews in which he was effusive and eloquent on all other topics.

But he always balked at the suggestion that their relationship entered his fiction even indirectly. In an interview conducted by his daughter Susan for Newsweek infor example, Cheever asserted that “the strongest love of my life was for my brother” 69adding, a year later to John Hersey “I don’t suppose that I have ever known a love so broad The brother appears in a great many stories.

I strike him in some, I hit him with sticks, rocks ; he in turn also damages me with profligacy, drunkenness, indebtedness, and emotional damage A minute ago, you said, “I strike my brother.

It seems to me that any confusion between autobiography and fiction debases fiction. The brothers were very close as youngsters and inseparable for a time.

After their parents’ separation and John’s expulsion from Thayer Academy at age seventeen —which resulted in his first published story, “Expelled,” in The New Republic the following year— John and Frederick settled in Boston, where they lived together for four years. Frederick supported them financially while John tried to write, and by all reports they supported each other emotionally as well and were rarely seen apart.

Whether they suffered a specific falling-out which Cheever never brought to light or the relationship simply became stifling is not clear. Cheever remarked to Hersey that during this period he and Frederick were “extremely close — morbidly close” and that it seemed to him that “two men living with such intense intimacy was an ungainly arrangement, that there was some immutable shabbiness about any such life” In they separated, John moving to New York to try his fortune as a writer there.

Cheever later said of the split, “I walked, so far as possible, out of his life” Hersey But the two were never again close. Only the fifteenth story Cheever published, it stands well above most of his apprentice work. The story revolves around Tom and Kenneth Manchester, brothers from New England who after the divorce of their parents become deeply attached to each other, take a small apartment in the city, and lead a “singular life One of the rituals they develop during four years of living together the same span as the Cheevers’ is to visit every Saturday the farm of widow Amy Henderson and her daughter Jane.

The farm’s stone gate, tall maples and cool porch make a welcome retreat from the city. Her frustration at his obliviousness is increased by the brothers’ tendency to act, apparently even to think, in concert.

John Cheever: “The Death of Justina” by 92Y | Free Listening on SoundCloud

Jusgina crisis comes when Jane feigns a sprained ankle to attract Kenneth’s attention. Tom sees her throw herself to the ground, observes her transparent happiness as Kenneth ministers to her, and grasps the situation.

His uppermost emotion is not jealousy, though, but dismay. It occurs to him for the first time that his and Kenneth’s “devotion vheever each other might be stronger than their love of any girl or even their love of the world”and he decides to go away.

Their closeness, he perceives, is too easy and exclusive; he feels “a sharp thrust of responsibility for them both — eeath must live and not wear out their lives like old clothes” Tom looks at the well-worn road home and decides that “no road of Europe or any other country could have seemed stranger.

He walked through the fields clutching involuntarily at the air As mystified and distraught as the brothers are, this is without question an affirmative ending for Cheever, for the deaht has been thrown daeth again. The love of blue sky and water, of the wonders of creation and human intercourse, is pure Cheever, and to refresh one’s perspective on that world can only be good — even if it chefver, as it does Tom and Kenneth, a painful separation.

Ten years later Cheever wrote of the wedge from within, of brothers divided not by cloying intimacy but by angry differences, and again conformity and nostalgia play major roles.


In the splendid “Goodbye, My Brother” the Pommeroy family gathers at a beach house in Massachusetts to commune with old memories and assess the changes wrought by the previous year.

Among the justiha children present are the narrator, whose name we never learn, and his brother Lawrence, a “gloomy son of a bitch” who does everything in his power, it seems, to weigh down the spirits of the others. He asks for the one kind of liquor not in the house, refers to his sister’s new friend as “the one she’s sleeping with now,” pesters the cook about wages and unions, and forecasts the imminent demise of the cottage: We could all be drowned” He pries up a shingle with his jackknife to scorn the artifice by which the house has been made to look old, refuses to play tennis with the less talented members of the family, and declines to join them in any game, dance or other activity, preferring to ridicule it all at a distance as immature and corrupt.

Don’t you like it here? Come out of this gloominess. Mother is an alcoholic He always has been. The house is going to fall into the sea. I wished that he was dead, dead and about to be buried, not buried but about to be buried, because I did not want to be denied ceremony and decorum in putting him away, in putting him out of my consciousness.

Lawrence and family leave the next morning, and the story ends with a paean to o inestimable greatness of the race, the harsh surface beauty of life” to which the wounded brother has blinded himself.

The justly famous final image is of the narrator’s wife and sister — Diana and Helen, a classical touch — swimming in xeath sea, which throughout the story has provided for every character except Lawrence “the cleansing force claimed for baptism”:. I saw their uncovered heads, black and gold in the dark water.

I saw them come out and I saw that they were naked, unshy, beautiful, and full of grace, and I watched the naked women walk out of the sea. Richard Rupp calls him a “stingy, mean-spirited, moralistic philistine”and Frederick Bracher refers to the blow from behind as “the kind of reflex that makes one stamp on a spider or batter a venomous snake” But there is more going on in the story than a good brother becoming fed up with a bad one and finding release in violence, more than “a biblical reversal in which an Abel-figure strikes Cain” Waldeland John Earlier, and more subtly, the brothers are linked pf the form of narration.

The “I” of the story seems at first a patient, long-suffering and trustworthy narrator, but as the tale progresses we realize that a great deal of Lawrence’s gloominess is jusitna demonstrated but ascribed to him, proceeding less from his acts than his thoughts, to which we have no access but the narrator’s speculation.

He intimates as much in the second paragraph: More importantly, the majority of Lawrence’s dark opinions come to us straight from the “good” brother in a kind of narrative ventriloquism.

What We Keep: Time and Balance in the Brother Stories of John Cheever

The narrator remarks, for instance, that the first night’s meal “had been planned to please Lawrence. It was not too rich, and there was nothing to make him worry about extravagance” 5. We have no evidence at this point that Justinx loaths extravagance, but we accept the statement and graft this feature onto him on the strength of the dependable narrative voice we’ve so far encountered.

But jistina of this sort begin to pile up. The clouds at sunset have a light that “looks like blood,” the narrator tells us, and when Mrs. Pommeroy makes a scene Lawrence remains on the terrace “as if he were waiting to see the final malfeasance. It is the narrator, too, who labels the restorative effect of swimming an “illusion of purification” while attributing the thought to his brother: I suppose that he would have found in the vocabulary of psychology, or the mythology of the Atlantic, some circumspect name for it The transference is most overt in the traditional family backgammon game.

Lawrence does not play but looks on silently. Each perception is similarly prefaced “Lawrence would have noticed