Literature

Not Oprah’s Book Club

By Kan Long • September 12, 2010 at 1:57 am


The woman is too powerful.  She controls a massive percentage of the uterine population, and their unborn children.  This is a (book club) revolution.  It will not be televised.  Can I borrow your camera?  Only two ground rules: there will be no monogrammed stickers and there will be no books titled after the main character’s hair color/ability to love/food groups.  Nuh uh, Oprah.

Cheever getting his literary swerve on

Book of the Month: Falconer by John Cheever

Falconer is no picnic.  The final page count runs to 225 pages, but the novel is about as dense as a piece of rock cake.  It’s a tightly wound stream of opiate addict consciousness, spanning a spectrum of calm and poignant to abstractly graphic.  But, this is a projection of the plot: Professor Ezekiel Farrugut is addicted to heroine and murders his brother.  After which Farragut is sent to Falconer prison to atone for his crime and then assumedly, die.

What you get isn’t that story though.  What you get is the experience of Farrugut’s reality, the fractured and tormenting experience of drug addiction.  Cheever hands you a mind: a muddled, brilliant, and insane one.  The reader moves page by page through dimensions of Farragut’s consciousness.  It’s genuinely engrossing because somehow, someway (as if Cheever is relying on human irrationality), what Farragut is thinking actually starts to matter.  You’re in it now, dude.  An apt analogy is the Magic School Bus; you explore going layer by layer until the thing you want to see is a hundred times your size (Wahoo.  And if you don’t like Falconer, it’s on Arnold).

There are some prolific passages of dialogue from two of the inmates, one named Chicken, the other named Cuckold, that help to balance out the intensity of Farragut’s psyche.  Plus, Cheever has this deeply unsettled sensation braided into the entire narrative—like he wants to provoke real physical discomfort.  I’ve never read anything like it.




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