A review by eiseneisen
Falconer, by John Cheever


I buy books. It’s my lone consumerism weakness. I love books. I love to read them, I love to hold them and smell them, I love to own them. So I buy them (despite not having room for them, despite my wife’s exasperated instructions to the contrary). I’m not rich, so I go to library book sales and buy books for between $1-$3. I buy 2 types of books—books I’ve heard/read about and want to read, and books whose covers convince me that I’ll enjoy them, that I should read them. Falconer by John Cheever was the latter type of purchase.

The cover of Falconer informs you that the author is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize (always a promising sign), and features a single quote from The New York Times:
“One of the most important novels of our time… Read it and be ennobled.” I’ve always found it difficult to pass up an opportunity for a little ennobling, so I bought the book and eagerly set about reading it.

Falconer is a fine book. There are sentences, paragraphs, pages, and even a few sections of true brilliance, in which the author simply and deftly illustrates the suffering, the hope, the absurdity, the warmth, the pain, the impotence, and the humor that characterize human existence. Oftentimes I read these passages twice or more, to marvel at and indulge myself in Cheever’s skill. Suffice to say these passages connected with me in a deep way. There are also sentences, paragraphs, pages, and more than a section or 2 of masturbatory flights of fancy that were utterly incomprehensible to This Guy—sentences, paragraphs, pages, and sections where I was just like, “Wuck?” I mean I was lost. And irritated.

It is entirely possible that this reader doesn’t possess the intellect or imagination necessary to understand or appreciate all of the brilliance that John Cheever has to share. Forgive me for saying so, but I think it is just as likely that because Cheever writes so brilliantly at times, reviewers simply give him the benefit of the doubt when his writing becomes impenetrable. That they characterize the entire work as brilliant, when in fact only certain sentences, paragraphs, pages, and sections are brilliant (and others maddening).

Bottom line—Falconer is a fine book. But I don’t feel ennobled.