Thursday, February 19, 2009

John Cheever's novel Falconer

I have begun reading Iris Murdoch's novel Under the Net, having just completed John Cheever's Falconer, published in the mid-1970s. I do not think that I've read Murdoch before, though I have thought of it and her many times. I have read Cheever's short stories, appreciating the variety of situations and characters he presents and the honesty and sensitivity he brings to their portrayal, the sympathy.

One wouldn't expect a man like John Cheever to know all the hard things in Falconer. The principal chracter in the novel is a privileged and lusty man who killed his own brother out of disgust as much as anger. Set in a prison, the writer keeps bringing into the story memories of the past and the larger world. The book has a truthful and irreducible vitality; and gives knowledge born of private experience and contemplation, not just social studies.

What is fascinating about a good novel, such as Falconer, is how a writer creates, enriches, disrupts, transgresses and reconciles his own story: a novel is a digression with digressions.