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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Oh What a Paradise It Seems by John Cheever 
2nd-Oct-2006 11:59 pm
You know, if I want Northeastern American suburban wastelands, all I have to do is look out the window...

Cheever, John. Oh What a Paradise It Seems. New York: Knopf, 1982.
Summary: Lemuel Sears, a middle-aged man having issues with his sexuality, recruits an environmentalist in an effort to stop the systematic dumping and pollution of Beasley's Pond. But it isn't until organized crime has the environmentalist killed, and horrified housewife Betsy threatens to keep poisoning people until the dumping stops is the pond saved.
Comments: Cheever is a much better short story writer than he is novelist, and it shows especially strongly in this slim novel, which is actually a slew of loosely-connected digressions and narrowly-focused observations of specific moments in time. (Though at least it didn't ramble as much as Falconer. The overarching narrative conceit--especially when it deigns to tell you what is used to be like--doesn't quite work, and the conclusion, that those specific moments can be connected to both the past and the future and elevated to the sublime, strikes me as forced and insipid. Of the two main characters, Betsy's suppressed rage and dissatisfaction came alive for me, but Sears' sexual obsessions and latent homosexuality seemed to be a bit too one-note...perhaps it was all too close to Cheever himself for him to look too closely at the character. Incidentally, Sears overcomes his homosexual liaison and goes back to the pretty (but unstable) woman; that's neither here nor there.
Notes: hardcover, 1st edition, out-of-print; trade paperback edition available
Rating: 5.5/10 - Great for Cheever fans, but if you're looking for a diverting, thought-provoking read, head elsewhere.
17th-Dec-2006 01:13 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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