63. The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever

Year Published: 1957
Pages: 277
First Sentence: St Botolphs was an old place, an old river town.
Rating: 1/3 (don't bother)

The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever

I finished reading The Wapshot Chronicle* last week, and then promptly forgot about doing anything else with it, including making a new item on my to do list about writing a review.  Once this is written I’ll probably never think about it again.

I didn’t like The Wapshot Chronicle at all.  Set in various locations, but perhaps primarily New England, it tells just a portion of the story of a few living generations of the Wapshot family.  There is Leander, his two sons Moses and Coverly, and a cousin Honora, who is, I think, from the generation before Leander.  I was paying attention but I didn’t care much.

I found this book completely inert and uninteresting.  A bunch of things happened, and I didn’t care about them, and I felt no connection to them whatsoever.  There wasn’t any energy or life to the characters, except in a few isolated moments.  Was the book supposed to be a bit funny?  Maybe, but I didn’t see it.

There’s also a truly baffling chapter in which Coverly encounters homosexuality.  I feel as though he was being set up as being gay early on, and then he meets a gay man who likes him, and then…?  When I say baffling, I mean it.  Coverly is married to a woman that he seems to truly care for and feel attraction to, and then he renounces his heterosexuality for a minute or something, and then that’s never mentioned again?

I don’t know what else to say about this.

* The List calls this The Wapshot Chronicles, and there’s actually a sequel to it called The Wapshot Scandal that makes me wonder if the pair of them weren’t supposed to be considered together for this item.  But, as I said when I started on The Alexandria Quartet, when it comes to series, I reserve the right to quit after any book, so it doesn’t matter whether The List has a typo on it or means two books instead of one.  I’ll be counting this as one for statistical purposes, though.

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   "We're going to England in ten days," Pancras said.
   "I'll miss you," Coverly said.
   "You're coming," Pancras said. "I've arranged the whole thing."
   Coverly turned to his companion and they exchanged a look of such sorrow that he thought he might never recover. It was a look that he had recoiled from here and there—the doctor in Travertine, a bartender in Washington, a priest on a night boat, a clerk in a shop—that exacerbating look of sexual sorrow between men; sorrow and the perverse wish to flee—to piss in the Lowestoft soup tureen, write a vile word on the back of the barn and run away to sea with a dirty, dirty sailor—to flee, not from the laws and customs of the world but from its force and vitality.
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That hairline where lovers cease to nourish and begin to devour one another; that fine point where tenderness corrodes self-esteem and the spirit seems to flake like rust would be put under a microscope and magnified until it was as large and recognizable as a steel girder.
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