Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Wapshot Chronicles

“Cheever's main theme was the spiritual and emotional emptiness of life. He especially described the manners and morals of middle-class, suburban America, with an ironic humour which softened his basically dark vision.” from Wikipedia

‘The Wapshot Chronicle’ by John Cheever has been a slow start for me. I found the introducing chapters quite predictable. A 1950s middle class America with a lot of eccentric and comedic characters. The unusual twist of the quote from one of the ancestors of the Wapshots. As I am moving in to the novel there are some gorgeous insights into how the novel is going to turnout. The story has just started, it is about a young couple trying to find privacy, he lives with his parents, she lives in a boarding house. There is that sweet 1950s awkwardness that you would expect and just a hint of exuberant passion that livens up the story and whilst it must have been quite shocking in the day, nowadays it appears sweet and humorous.

One line that sticks in my head is when they go to a beach that he hopes will be deserted, they find two other groups of people. As if pre-planned he takes her hand and she says loudly “I’d adore to pick blueberries but let’s take your hat and we’ll put the blueberries in that.” All an excuse for some intimacy.

I am warming to this book, even though I am getting more busy and Christmas is coming it looks likely to become a good read. I now have only one pressing HNC assignment, I have to learn ASP and design a website but it is not too bad. I will finish off by letting the book speak for itself, a short section about Rosalie Young and her date going home from the beach:

“Then they drank some more whisky and ate again and now the homing pleasure boats had disappeared and the beach and all but the highest cliffs lay in the dark. He went up to the car and got a blanket, but now the search for privacy was brief; now it was dark. The stars came out and when they were done she washed in the sea and put her white coat on and together, barefoot, they went up and down the beach, carefully gathering the sandwich papers, bottles and egg shells that they and the others had left, for these were neat, good children of the middle class.

He hung the wet bathing suits on the door of the car to dry, patted her gently on the knee – the tenderest gesture of all – and started the car. Once they had got onto the main road the traffic was heavy and many of the cars they passed had, like his, bathing suits hung from the door handles. He drove fast, and she thought cleverly, although the car was old. Its lights were weak and with the lights of an approaching car filling the pupils of his eyes he held to the road precariously, like a blind man running. But he was proud of the car – he had put a new cylinder head and supercharger – prod of his prowess in negotiating the dilapidated and purblind vehicle over the curving roads of Travertine and St. Botolphs, and when they had gotten free of the traffic and were on a back road that was not, to his knowledge, patrolled, he took it as fast as it would go. The speed made Rosalie feel relaxed until she heard him swear and felt the car careen and bump into a field.”

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