Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey

By Blake Bailey

John Cheever spent a lot of his occupation impersonating an ideal suburban gentleman, the higher to turn into one of many optimal chroniclers of postwar the USA. Written with unheard of entry to crucial sources—including Cheever’s significant magazine, just a fraction of which has ever been published—Bailey’s Cheever is a gorgeous instance of the biographer’s paintings and an excellent tribute to a necessary writer.

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Among them was a new notion, still curious and outrageous to most in the eighteenth century, that Earth might in fact be a very good deal older than the human race that inhabited it, such that humankind and its planet might not in fact have been of near-simultaneous origin. There was no evidence whatsoever for such views—those who doubted Creation were indulging in little more than inspired hunches. In later years the hunches became more certain, and indeed it would be William Smith’s discoveries that would go some long way toward confirming them.

In fact it was during the late eighteenth century—most probably for the first time—that society suddenly seemed to realize it had become a vastly complicated entity, its characteristics linking and interconnecting with one another in wholly unexpected ways. Such domino effects first became apparent when it was revealed, at the turn of the century, that Britain could no longer feed itself. The consumption of white bread and roast beef, for example, led indirectly to a set of completely unanticipated consequences.

The Camerton & Limpley Stoke Railway 10. The Somerset Coal Canal 11. Tucking Mill 12. Tucking Mill House 13. An Ichthyosaur 14. A Plesiosaur 15. The Tethyan Ocean 16. Leioceras opalinum 17. The Jurassic of England (Indication of Outcrop) 18. Titanites giganteus 19. Asteroceras 20. No. 15 Buckingham Street 21. The King’s Bench Prison 22. Ammonites sublaevis 23. Scarborough City Museum 24. Hackness Hall 25. The Sheldonian Theatre 26. Detail of ornate stonework at the House of Commons 27. Geological Time Scale A NOTE ON THE MAP INSERT The brilliance of William Smith’s achievement can be amply demonstrated by comparing his great map of 1815 with the one produced today by the British Geological Survey.

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