John Cheever Short Stories

John Cheever wrote many well-known short stories, including a few that are frequently anthologized. His collection, The Stories of John Cheeverlinked to below, won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

“Goodbye, My Brother”

A mother and her four grown children and their families gather at Laud’s Head, their family-owned summer house. The youngest brother, Lawrence, is the outsider of the siblings. Everyone mingles but Lawrence’s presence creates some tension. They talk, drink and play games.

This is the first story in the preview of The Stories of John Cheever. (10% in)

“The Common Day”

Jim and Ellen are at her mother’s country house for a vacation. He wants to have breakfast in the kitchen, but Agnes won’t allow him in there with the servants and children. Nils, the gardener, talks to Jim about something that’s eating the corn. Jim says he’ll set some traps. Mrs. Garrison, his mother-in-law, criticizes some of the flowers and wants the lilies moved.

This is the second story in the above preview of The Stories of John Cheever. (35% in)

“The Enormous Radio”

The Westcott’s live in an upscale apartment and enjoy music. Mr. Westcott buys his wife a new radio—big, ugly, and able to pick up conversations from neighboring suites.

This is the third story in the above preview of The Stories of John Cheever. (49% in)

“O City of Broken Dreams”

The Malloy family is on a train to New York, having left their home in Indiana the day before, and they’re excited about their new life. Evarts, the husband and father, used to be in the army, then he worked as a bus driver. In his spare time, he wrote a play. One day, a producer from New York came to give a lecture about the theatre. Evarts wife, Alice, managed to get him to read the first act of her husband’s play, which is all he had written so far. He liked it and invited the family to come to New York.

This is the fourth story in the above preview of The Stories of John Cheever. (62% in)

“The Hartleys”

Mr. and Mrs. Hartley arrive at the Pemaquoddy Inn with their young daughter, Anne. They were there eight years ago, and had a good time. Skiing is the main pastime at the inn. It even has a hill with a primitive ski tow as a back-up, for when conditions aren’t good on the mountain. Anne only wants to ski with her father, and doesn’t participate in the regular lessons.

This is the fifth story in the above preview of The Stories of John Cheever. (83% in)

“The Summer Farmer”

Paul Hollis takes the train to his summer farm in New Hampshire, which he does every weekend in the summer. He’s met by his wife, Virginia, and they drive home, talking about the kids and Paul’s sister, who’s staying at the farm for a while. The kids want a pet, so they decide on a rabbit. Paul’s going to work the land with Kasiak, the Russian hired man. They’ve been neighbors for twenty years. Kasiak is miserly and bitter, and gives Paul clippings about Communism.

“Sutton Place Story”

Robert and Katherine Tennyson were out with a business friend last night and had a lot to drink. Their three-year-old, Deborah, is allowed to come see them on Sunday morning. Soon after, the cook brings the Tennyson’s their breakfast and tells them Mrs. Harley is there to take Deborah out. Deborah doesn’t talk much about how she spends her days away from home, which benefits Mrs. Harley. Several times, they’ve gone to the movies instead of staying outside. Sometimes, on Sundays, she leaves Deborah with Renée Hall, a family friend.

“The World of Apples”

Asa Bascomb, eighty-two years old, wonders why he hasn’t been given the Nobel Prize. He’s been awarded just about every other honor a poet can receive. His reputation rests largely on just one of his many volumes—The World of Apples. Admirers visit his home in Italy almost daily. One day, he has an experience that makes his thoughts run along more carnal lines.

“The Five Forty-Eight”

When Blake steps off the elevator after work, he sees a woman he knows but doesn’t want to speak to. He realizes she is stalking him. He thinks about their brief relationship, and believes she will be easy to shake.

“The Angel of the Bridge”

The narrator, a businessman, finds out that his mother is afraid of flying. He also finds out his brother has developed a fear of tall buildings, especially the elevators. He doesn’t take an understanding view of his brother’s problem. On the way back from New Jersey, he experiences a strong reaction to the George Washington Bridge.

“The Fourth Alarm”

A man sits drinking gin on a Sunday morning. He doesn’t have much to do. His wife, Bertha, a good-looking young woman, will arrive tomorrow just for a day. She used to be a teacher, but now she lives near the theatre where she performs. She was cast in Ozamanides II, a scandalous show that made her husband want to seek a divorce.

“The Swimmer”

On a summer Sunday, Neddy is hanging out at the Westerhazy’s pool. They’re talking about how they drank too much last night. He realizes he could make his way home by swimming the length of the pools in his neighborhood.

Read “The Swimmer”