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Today's Inspiration

September 13, 2010
Watching Don Draper emerge from chlorinated baptismal waters, gasping for breath in a cavernous public gym, brings to mind John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer,” from 1964. “I’ve been a little out of sorts, lately,” Don confesses to his date. Likewise Cheever’s main character, Ned Merrill. Beginning at the public pool, Ned, in an attempt discover Bullet Park’s hidden topography, decides to swim through the private and public schools of his Westchester neighborhood, creating an aquatic trail back to his home. Ned starts the expedition with great hope, as he enjoys the sensation of swimming: “He had been swimming and now he was breathing deeply, stertorously as if he could gulp into his lungs the components of that moment, the heat of the sun, the intenseness of his pleasure.”

Footnotes of Mad Men: The Swimmer

Watching Don Draper emerge from chlorinated baptismal waters, gasping for breath in a cavernous public gym, brings to mind John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer,” from 1964. “I’ve been a little out of sorts, lately,” Don confesses to his date. Likewise Cheever’s main character, Ned Merrill. Beginning at the public pool, Ned, in an attempt discover Bullet Park’s hidden topography, decides to swim through the private and public schools of his Westchester neighborhood, creating an aquatic trail back to his home. Ned starts the expedition with great hope, as he enjoys the sensation of swimming: “He had been swimming and now he was breathing deeply, stertorously as if he could gulp into his lungs the components of that moment, the heat of the sun, the intenseness of his pleasure.”

Footnotes of Mad Men: The Swimmer


3:43pm  |  93 notes   |  john cheever |  literature 
September 15, 2009
JOHN CHEEVER TAUGHT LITERATURE TO THE INMATES OF SING SING

How do you like that juxtaposition of soul tearing abundance (Don) and depravation (Shouty Prison guard)?!

5:52pm  |  10 notes   |  John Cheever |  Mad Men Bookshelf 
September 3, 2009
What We Talk About When We Talk About The Suburbs

From a NY Times piece on the resurgence of the suburban genre.

Heading Home to Adultery and Angst; A New Generation of Authors Discovers the Suburbs

Alcohol flows through these novels like a seductive potion: not just in Cheever, with his lonely, hungover husbands, but in David Gates’s bleak novels ”Jernigan” and ”Preston Falls,” in which everyone is either an alcoholic or a druggie or both. And where would the suburban novel be without adultery? The sharp tang of sex is everywhere, an anodyne and occasionally the way to transcendence.

Sunday can’t come soon enough.

12:42pm  |  9 notes   |  Mad Men BookShelf |  John Cheever 
“It is the peculiar and original genius of Novelist John Cheever to see his chosen subject—the American middle class entering the second decade of the Affluent Society—as figures in an Ovidian netherworld of demons. Commuterland… is given by Cheever’s fables the dignity of the classical theater.”

Ovid in Ossining, Time Magazine, 27 March 1964.

The alert reader will learn something of creator Matt Weiner’s debt to Cheever, and at the same time the reader can reconsider Mad Men as a fable.

• footnote - by Brenden Dean Kemp

12:31pm  |  3 notes   |  John Cheever |  Mad Men Bookshelf 
Betty and Don live in Ossining, NY the suburb that novelist John Cheever called home.  In American literature, Cheever is considered the Chekhov of the suburbs. 
A description of Cheever’s work could just as easily be applied to Mad Men:
“The Swimmer,” “The Country Husband,” and “The Housebreaker of Shady Hill.” These stories are said to explore the “separateness” of the characters’ existences. As their lives are divided between their city work and suburban homes, so are they split between their normal outer appearances and their chaotic inner experiences. Critics often note that Cheever’s talent lies in being able to blend the commonplace with the mythic.
• footnote - by Brenden Dean Kemp

Betty and Don live in Ossining, NY the suburb that novelist John Cheever called home.  In American literature, Cheever is considered the Chekhov of the suburbs. 

A description of Cheever’s work could just as easily be applied to Mad Men:

“The Swimmer,” “The Country Husband,” and “The Housebreaker of Shady Hill.” These stories are said to explore the “separateness” of the characters’ existences. As their lives are divided between their city work and suburban homes, so are they split between their normal outer appearances and their chaotic inner experiences. Critics often note that Cheever’s talent lies in being able to blend the commonplace with the mythic.

• footnote - by Brenden Dean Kemp

12:26pm  |  30 notes   |  Mad Men Bookshelf |  John Cheever