John Updike on John Cheever

Tumblr_mc689rrQcZ1r6xvfko1_1280John Updike from a 1991 piece in The New Republic:

In 1970, after the disappointing reception of the rather punchyBullet Park, an entry begins with the unforgettable cry, “Whatever happened to Johnny Cheever? Did he leave his typewriter out in the rain?” His perversely contented stuckness, as he rotates in a mire of drink and marital discontent, varied by rather forced spurts of child-cherishing and nature-worship but gradually deepening into phobia, artistic impasse, and vicious behavior, should be overwhelming, and it does tax our patience. But in fact even at his lowest ebb Cheever can write like an angel and startle us with offhand flashes of unblinkered acumen.

And there is, beneath the apparently futile churning of these jottings to himself, a story, which we know not from any editorial guidance in reading the journal excerpts but from the biographies by Susan Cheever and Scott Donaldson and his letters as edited by his son Ben. Cheever did, in the spring of 1975, stop drinking. The novel he then wrote, Falconer, and the handsome volume of Collected Stories that he allowed Gottlieb to assemble and to publish, won him the greatest financial and critical success of his life. At the same time, he came out of the closet, and the (mostly) suppressed homosexual urges so darkly alluded to in the earlier journals blossomed into lewd romps, mostly with “M.,” recorded as frankly and joyfully as a psychotherapist could wish: “When we met here, not long ago, we sped into the nearest bedroom, unbuckled each other’s trousers, groped for our cocks in each other’s underwear, and drank each other’s spit. I came twice, once down his throat, and I think this is the best orgasm I have had in a year.”

more here.