John Cheever’s Paris Review Interview

John Cheever was/is one of my favorite short story writers.  He was a master of the art, a Pulitzer winner, a regular in the pages of the The New Yorker. He was expelled from prep school, published a story about it at the age of 17 to The New Republic, never went to college, friends with E. E. Cummings, contemporary of Updike, Mailer, Bellow.

In this 1976 interview with Annette Grant, for The Paris Review, Cheever talks about his life, but mostly about the art of writing.  His answers, as in this quote about how he comes up with ideas for stories, are often as entertaining and magical as his stories:

What I love is when totally disparate facts come together.  For example, I was sitting in a café reading a letter from home with the news that a neighboring housewife had taken the lead in a nude show.  As I read, I could hear an Englishwoman scolding her children: “If you don’t do thus and so before Mommy counts to three” was her line.  A leaf fell through the air, reminding me of winter and of the fact that my wife had left me and was in Rome.  There was my story.

The story he’s talking about was “The Fourth Alarm.” Click here for the full interview.

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