Once I'd known him for a couple of years, it finally hit me who he was - and what he represented to people. I was in the supermarket with my mom and at the checkout stand, there was that elegant, weathered face, on the cover of Newsweek magazine (after he'd won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, Falconer). I was seeing Cheever later that day so I brought the copy with me. In his office, I showed it to him. He just nodded and I asked him something. I explained to him that when I first visited, I was not familiar with him. But now, over time, and especially with this magazine, it was clear to me he was very important. So I wanted to know: why grant me, a kid in the neighborhood, all of this precious time?
He laughed a little at that and explained that since his drinking problems in the last few years, he had looked for therapeutic outlets that might help him focus - and that helping a young writer was almost like medicine. (I learned later that he was completely dry the last seven years of his life - and those were the years I knew him). In addition to visiting at his home, I called him from college to chat from time to time. I'd bump into him taking long walks down Spring Valley Road on lazy summer days (or riding his beloved bicycle) and he'd always stop to talk and catch up.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Terrific article by Chris Epting on his memories of a master: