The demons that drove John Cheever

On a damp and unseasonably cold summer morning, Susan Cheever and I leave her apartment in New York and drive to Ossining, in Westchester County. We are going to visit the stone-ended Dutch Colonial she lived in as a teenager, a house her 90-year-old mother, Mary, still miraculously inhabits. Susan, who is 65, begins our journey with the slightly ragged air of one who has packed for a long trip a little too fast; her ultimate destination is Bennington College, Vermont, where she teaches non-fiction writing. But this doesn’t last long. Barely have we left the city than I notice that her face is suffused with a warm, proprietorial glow. Rather to my amazement, she is enjoying our talk, which is all about her father, John Cheever, the great American writer. I had expected it to be painful. “Oh, yes,” she says, when I mention this. “I’m sort of enchanted by my family. I have this weird family worship.” She peers determinedly through the misted windscreen. “Wait till you see the house! This beautiful building that is now the ugliest place on earth. It’s like the House of Usher.” Link

Scroll to Top