The reason John Cheever’s Falconer is so good is because he is able to give so much life to so many characters. This is not a long book, and yet, when I was done, I felt like I had read a much longer book. Cheever packs so much in just a couple hundred pages. It’s almost as though it’s a collection of short stories, all centered around a central character: Farragut, a prisoner at Falconer State Prison. Take, for instance, the Cuckhold’s (another inmate at Falconer) story about “scor[ing] with another man.” It takes up all of eight pages, all dialogue from the Cuckhold, but the effect is a whole story itself. Through speeches and snippets of their lives, Cheever brings these men to life, weaving Farragut into and out of their stories to pursue his own.
Oh, and the other reason that this book is so good is Cheever’s description of the withdrawal that Farragut, a drug addict, goes through when denied his “fix” (on page 53 of the Vintage International edition):
“…He fell and beat his head on the floor, trying to achieve the reasonableness of pain. Pain would give him peace. When he realized that he could not reach pain this way, he began the enormous struggle to hang himself. He tried fifteen or a million times before he was able to get his hand on his belt buckle…”
It goes on, and it’s intense. And it is reason enough to read this book.
Bio: David Doody is Guernica’s blog editor and a founding editor of InDigest Magazine. Read his last recommendation “here”:https://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1412/rec_room_david_doody_what_is_t/.