Tin House

ORDER WITH USPS PRIORITY SHIPPING BY FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19 TO RECEIVE MERCHANDISE AND BOOKS BY DECEMBER 24TH

Blog

TwitterFollow Us
Facebook
FacebookFollow Us
Tumblr
TumblrFollow Us
Podcast
PodcastFollow Us
RSS
RSSFollow Us
Sign Up for News, Sales
& Events

Scott_Bourne_tinhouse

 

The Art of the Sentence: John Cheever

“Then it is dark; it is a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains.”— John Cheever, “A Country Husband”

It is as I know you know, the last line of John Cheever’s short story “The Country Husband”. The first time I read that story, I reached the final sentence and it knocked the breath out of me. So gorgeous, so fabulist, so puzzling. I read and re-read the story, in which Francis Weed survives a plane crash and cannot get his family to care about it. The setting is the suburbs, as only Cheever can depict the suburbs. (“The village hangs, morally and economically, from a thread. But it hangs by its thread in the evening light,” Cheever writes in the same story) My professor in college interpreted the final line for us as a reminder of eternity. But eventually, I came to see the final line as a way to show the reader greatness contrasted against the shallowness that Weed sees as he navigates the world of the story. However, over time its meaning has changed yet again. I now see it as Cheever’s exaltation of life in the suburbs, and as Weed’s personal isolation from that happiness. I suspect that in five or ten years, I will have yet another way to read that sentence, and this is precisely why it is such a great sentence. In tone and style, it is completely opposite of the rest of the story. It forces us to step back and consider its meaning. As a writer, it reminds me not only to consider each word, each sentence, but to take risks when I write.

Ann Hood is the author of the novels, The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread, as well as the memoir, Comfort: A Journey through Grief, which was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and chosen as one of the top ten non-fiction books of 2008 by Entertainment Weekly.

Share |
Posted in Art of the Sentence

Comments: 4

(4) Comments

  1. PONS Idiomas says:

    Hola, quizás os interese saber que tenemos una colección que incluye el relato ‘The Swimmer’ de John Cheever en versión original conjuntamente con el relato ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ de F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    El formato de esta colección es innovador porque permite leer directamente la obra en inglés sin necesidad de usar el diccionario al integrarse un glosario en cada página.

    Tenéis más info de este relato y de la colección

  2. PONS Idiomas says:

    Hola, quizás os interese saber que tenemos una colección que incluye el relato ‘The Swimmer’ de John Cheever en versión original conjuntamente con el relato ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ de F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    El formato de esta colección es innovador porque permite leer directamente la obra en inglés sin necesidad de usar el diccionario al integrarse un glosario en cada página.

    Tenéis más info de este relato y de la colección Read&Listen en http://bit.ly/natj5h

  3. Joe Vitale says:

    Wow you made some great points. They were very convenient considering I was just about to do a paper for school on the same story!

  4. Lucinda Kempe says:

    Thanks for the reminder of Cheever’s wonderful shorts. He certainly defined the word fearless, at least on paper. That to me counts a lot.

(0) Trackbacks & Pingbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>