I really like audiobooks sometimes because it gives a book a new edge. I absolutely loved listening to a selection of John Cheever’s stories via audiobook. The John Cheever Audio Collection was very well done.
As I listened to the stories, I kept recalling my time reading the short stories of Chekhov and Maupassant last year. Cheever’s stories reminded me of theirs, but it’s been so long since I read Chekhov and Maupassant that I couldn’t figure out exactly why. Maybe it’s because Cheever, like the others, focuses on normal people in regular, realistic situations.
Of course, Cheever stories take place in 1950s and 1960s suburban New York, among the upper-middle class society. His stories try to determine what would be the natural result of a given situation, and they often felt sad in the end.
After I put down some of these thoughts, I found that Wikipedia claims Cheever is “the Chekhov of the suburbs.” At least I’m right on that! His stories did remind me more of Maupassant’s stories, but still, the title fits him.
The John Cheever Audio Collection has twelve stories by John Cheever, read by various personalities.
- The Enormous Radio read by Meryl Streep
- The Five-Forty-Eight read by Edward Herrmann
- O City of Broken Dreams read by Blythe Danner
- Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor read by George Plimpton
- The Season of Divorce read by Edward Herrmann
- The Brigadier and the Golf Widow read by Peter Gallagher
- The Sorrows of Gin read by Meryl Streep
- O Youth and Beauty! read by Peter Gallagher
- The Chaste Clarissa read by Blythe Danner
- The Jewels of the Cabots read by George Plimpton
- The Death of Justina read by John Cheever
- The Swimmer read by John Cheever
My favorite story of these twelve was The Enormous Radio. It had a supernatural element, as some of Maupassant’s stories did, and yet it felt real. In that story, a couple gets a new radio. After a day or so, the wife realizes that listening to the radio allows her to hear the private conversations of the people living in the apartment complex around her. At first, she loves this new ability to pry into other people’s lives; by the end, she realizes her life and problems are just like theirs.
The Enormous Radio reminded me strongly of all the “reality” things people have now to make their private lives public: twitter, blogs, television shows. People don’t hesitate to share with strangers the intimate struggles of their lives, and as Irene realized, that’s not always nice. Her life became one of listening in, and she neglected her own life. It became rather depressing.
Many of Cheever’s stories felt like they ended suddenly. Because I was listening to them, I wasn’t always sure if the story was over or my audio had cut out (which happened a few times too). When a story just ended suddenly, I sometimes felt I’d missed something, so look forward to rereading. I liked the stories, depressing or not, and the majority (all?) were depressing.
Now I intend to keep reading a few of Cheever’s stories every week.
If you are intimidated by his 800+ pages collection of stories, this audio selection is well worth your time. You can get a glimpse of Cheever’s stories without being overwhelmed, and they are well read by the readers for your enjoyment.
If you have reviewed The John Cheever Audio Collection or any Cheever stories on your site, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.