Father Tony

Cavett on Cheever and Updike

Filed By Father Tony | March 07, 2009 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: dick cavett, John Cheever, John Updike, updike

The great Dick Cavett remembers an interview with two lions of American literature, John Cheever and John Updike.

Here's a startling line:

The price exacted by booze, drugs and the wear-and-tear of leading a double (triple?) life of bisexual adultery while maintaining a family and brilliant writing career was writ large on the raffish Cheever face.

Cavett's interviews are priceless, and I suggest you watch the rarely available video of the show included in his article.


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Cheever is true to himself as the insecure overeducated cultured snob I met cruising for tricks at the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel in the 1950's. John commented that I had a beautiful back at the Everard baths sitting on the edge of the pool. We gathered at Jimmy Donahue's table and drank martini's on an empty stomach until we didn't make sense. Daughter Susan Cheever writes about her father's bi-sexuality and I love Erica Jong's description of bringing back the 50's and not out of guilt checking into 12 step programs the next morning. Non, je ne regrette rien This may be too sophisticated for Indiana. Google Thomas Paine's description of hoosiers.

This may be too sophisticated for Indiana.

Nope. Even here in the sticks, we have no problem understanding the basics of the story: You were cruising for dick when a famous person complimented your appearance so you went and got drunk with them.

God, I don't know how this poor Hoosier can follow the intricacies of that story so easily - must be the public education system. ;)

Charles may be referring to the French Quote, which is the opening line of an Edith Piaf song of the same name.

See, even culchies from the bogs might occasionally be exposed to culture, Charles....

Maura I WAS referring to Edith Piaf's great song in relation to Erica Jong's OpEd she wrote about a 50's Christmas Party in New York. She said people got drunk and there were no apologies or checking into 12 step programs. I think she was taking a stab at Susan Cheever who writes about her overcoming alcoholism.
Glad you got it.
Bil. You are so on the defensive about Indiana. There is a wonderful book by an ex Hoosier Alan Helms,Young Man from the Provinces: A Gay Life Before Stonewall. I was in New York about that time and when I met John Cheever and later got to know other gay writers even more famous. Not name dropping, just being relevant to the subjects in the video by Father Tony.

I've probably read only one Erica Jong novel, and for the life of me I can no loger remember the title.

In Ireland of my youth, they were banned as pornography.

In boarding school books not on the approved list were proscribed, and I'd already been in trouble.

In Spain at the Complutense, I was busy reading Irigaray, Kristeva and other European feminists and gorging myself on ideas. Later on it was Greats,Non_Catholic Dominated European History, Law, and even later Great Circle Trigonometry, then Brit Law at QM, and even later US law at Duke.....One woman's culture is another man's lack thereof.

Loved your anectdote about Cheever, minus the Indiana thing, which I refuse to analyse the motivation, pure or otherwise, for.

Of any writer, I wish that I had met Scott Fitzgerald at his peak, before the endless party and rivers of champers took him from driving Rollers to writing potboilers. The man understood the human psyche from shallow indulgence to unrequited passion to despair. "In the deep, dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning."

Staying out of the case of California v Indiana, I want to comment on Cavett himself. To my reconing, he was one of the truly great interviers of the television genre of reporting. His description of Janet Flanner, who I knew in my youth, warmed me as it was so very 'dead-on."
(No, I did not meet her, get drunk with her and chase her....she was a friend of my aunt's and I had the experience as a young teen of trying to defend viewpoints across a bistro table to the great 'Genet')

The problem with " insecure overeducated cultured snob[s]" isn't that they exist, its those that won't own up to their own BS. How many names did you drop in that paragraph? I love ya Charles, but I think its time to try on some shoes.

Back to the point. The interview is a delight to watch. Seeing three men sit and discuss is a rare treat these days.