John Cheever – Yet Another Homosexual Writer

As we were poring over reviews of Blake Bailey’s biography of novelist and short story writer John Cheever in today’s New York Times Book Review and in the last issue of the New Yorker, we couldn’t help but wonder at the strong connection between great writers and homsexuality.

A genetic vulnerability, perhaps?

Cheever apparently had an incestuous relationship with his older brother Fred. Interesting, na.

According to Geoffrey Wolff (the NYT reviewer):

John Cheever’s powerful love for this man – returned in kind – remains an unaccountable but commonplace mystery of the twisty ways of the human heart.

Cheever’s homosexuality is of course no secret to readers familiar with his works or earlier biographies of the writer.

Other famous homosexual writers through the ages include Aristotle, John Milton, Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Alfred Tennyson (suspected), Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, T.E.Lawrence (of Seven Pillars of Wisdom fame), E.M.Forster (remember Passage to India?), the economist and writer John Maynard Keynes, Susan Sontag et al.

Indian Scene
Is homosexuality absent among Indian writers or is the tendency repressed in the intolerant, censorious Hindu culture.

We don’t recollect any homosexual references to Kalidas, Nirad Chaudhuri, R.K.Narayan, Rabindranath Tagore, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Maasti Venkatesh Iyengar, Kuvempu et al.

By the way, we haven’t read any of Cheever’s works, an omission we hope to rectify soon by picking up his short stories from our local library.

Our plan is to read his acclaimed short story Goodbye, My Brother first.

Different Opinions
As an aside, we must note that book reviews are like movie reviews.

Some reviewers can’t stop singing the praise of the author while others express disappointment at the work in their hands.

In the case of Cheever, the NYT reviewer Geoffrey Wolff is clearly a fan of Blake Bailey while the recently deceased John Updike (in the New Yorker) doesn’t seem too impressed with the work. Go figure.

4 Responses to "John Cheever – Yet Another Homosexual Writer"

  1. I. M. Legend   March 16, 2009 at 12:17 am

    wow, that’s quite a list..

    Lawrence of Arabia’s gayness is also questionable according to wikipedia… haven’t watched that movie, but I don’t think they would have depicted any gayness in it. Responds:

    If our memory serves us right, the book (Seven Pillars of Wisom) makes some veiled references to T.E.Lawrence’s homosexuality. Unfortunately, we don’t have the book on hand.

    Are you aware of any noted Indian homosexual/lesbian writers?

  2. adil4u   March 16, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Vikram seth (A suitable Boy) …gay. Responds:


    Still, given our population of 1.2 billion very few Indian writers are known to be gay. That sems to be an aberration.

    Suitable Boy – nice book. Set some time in the early years of Independence (if we remember right).

  3. I. M. Legend   March 16, 2009 at 8:45 am

    No.. for some reason, I think Arundhati may be gay. Responds:

    And what, pray, is the basis of your intuition?

  4. I. M. Legend   March 16, 2009 at 10:03 am

    When did intuition have any basis.. Responds:

    If Freud were alive, he’d probably say that the basis of all intuition is repressed oedipal urges or some such nonsense.

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