A Gem from Cheever’s Journal

When I taught at Flagler College, I remember I had read John Cheever’s published journal.  The book was rich with knowledge about Cheever and the writing life, and is definitely worth the read if you are a Cheever fan. (Check out the review of the book from The Guardian.) There was a journal excerpt, just a daily entry, that really stuck to me back then when I read the book, and I typed it out and used it in some of my classes to show students how you could quickly grab disparate images in a short space and create the essence of a world, or, as in this case, the essence of a day:

When the beginnings of self-destruction enter the heart it seems no bigger than a grain of sand. It is a headache, a slight case of indigestion, an infected finger; but you miss the 8:20 and arrive late at the meeting on credit extensions. The old friend that you meet for lunch suddenly exhausts your patience and in an effort to be pleasant you drink three cocktails, but by now the day has lost its form, its sense and meaning. To try and restore some purpose and beauty to it you drink too much at cocktails you talk too much you make a pass at somebody’s wife and you end with doing something foolish and obscene and wish in the morning that you were dead. But when you try to trace back the way you came into this abyss all you find is a grain of sand.

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