Darkness Visible

A new biography shows John Cheever in unflinching detail and makes the case for his comeback

Stathis Orphanos

Despite his successes, Cheever feared being a "dirty fraud."

In the first great flowering of his career, in the 1950s and '60s, John Cheever was, to all appearances, the crown prince of normality. The wife and three children, the faithful retrievers, the rambling old house in Ossining, N.Y. — in all its outward signs, his life was commensurate with his role as the man who was, with John Updike, the esteemed chronicler of the postwar suburbs. But if you came to his fiction expecting sunlit scenes of American life, you were mistaken. Though his work was shot through with the beauty and abundance of the world,...

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