To accompany this week’s review of Thomas Mallon’s book about letters, each day the blog will feature two letters. This one was sent by John Cheever to William Maxwell, his editor at The New Yorker on March 6, 1969. It’s taken from The Letters of John Cheever edited by Benjamin Cheever.
I can’t write you a story. I can’t write anyone a story. I know that Bullet Park is not that massive but six months later I still feel pole-axed. Twice I seem to have had a donnee but I don’t seem to have any motive for following through. I think I’ll have to start all over again. Also the stuntiness of Barthelme disconcerts me. One can always begin, “Mr. Frobisher, returning from a year in Europe, opened his trunk for the customs officer and found there, instead of his clothing and souvenirs, the mutilated and naked body of an Italian sailor.” Blooey. It’s like the last act in vaudeville and anyhow it seems to me that I did it fifteen years ago. There’s the rub. I start on a story and realize that I’ve already written it.
Not working is terribly painful and I’m still having a fight with the booze. I’ve enlisted the help of a doctor but it’s touch and go. A day for me; a day for the hootch. A beautiful, blonde, intelligent and responsive movie actress whom I adore announced to her husband that she had to spend three hours alone with me. He sullenly agreed. I took her skating.