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 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."