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 worksÂ 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.
Is homosexuality absent among Indian writers or is the tendency repressed in the intolerant,Â censorious Hindu culture.
We don’t recollect anyÂ homosexual referencesÂ 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 BrotherÂ first.
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.