1958 -- Wapshot Chronicle

…[I’m] pleased to say that I’ve finished a novel. At least it looks like a novel. It doesn’t look like a short story, anyhow. It’s much heavier and costs more postage.

—John Cheever, in a letter written just after completing The Wapshot Chronicle

The Wapshot Chronicle is a first novel in the sense that Brahm’s First Symphony is a first symphony.

—the novelist and critic Stephen Becker

Cheever was forty-five when received the NBA for his first novel, and he had been publishing his short stories in The New Yorker for over twenty years. His editors at the magazine had been Gus Lobrano and then William Maxwell, the latter cited in Cheever’s letters as being his inspiration for The Wapshot Chronicle and a big help: “The advice he gave me and the advice he didn’t give me was all brilliant….” The Wapshot Scandal, published six years later, was dedicated to “W.M.” — initials only, Cheever explained before the sequel’s publication, as they “represent the lack between what I write for you and what I produced. If it seems better in galleys I’ll add the illiam and the axwell.”

Cheever’s indebtedness to Maxwell may have been a little more — Maxwell was one of the NBA jurists the year The Wapshot Chronicle won — and a little less. One letter from years later has this: “Bill, after forty years, remains indecipherable. I thought I once understood him. It seemed that he was a man who mistook power for love. If you don’t grow and change he baits you; if you do grow and change he baits you cruelly.” Another letter describes Cheever’s phone call to Maxwell after finding one of his stories edited in unacceptable ways: “‘You cut that story,” I yelled, “and I’ll never write another story for you or anybody else. You can get that Godamned sixth-rate Salinger to write your Godamned short stories but don’t expect anything more out of me.”

April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.