"Literature is the only form of communication we have that is judged only on merit," John Cheever, author of "Falconer" and six collections of short stories, told a crowd of about 200 students at Paine Hall last night.
Cheever read three of his short stories--"The President of the Argentine," "The Swimmer" and "The Death of Justina"--before fielding questions from the audience about his writing and contemporary American authors. He did not read from "Falconer," currently a best-selling novel.
Peter N. Baker '78 said last night he enjoyed Cheever's "sense of humor and self-awareness." David B. Gootnick '78 said Cheever's stories are interesting "comments on his own WASPishness."
"The stories I like most I write in the space of 24 hours," Cheever said. "I get excited and have a marvelous time running around the house," he said.
Cheever said many of his works center on his concern for confinement and liberty. His short stories have shown the "spiritual confinements" of suburbanites, businessmen and expatriates, he added.
"The President of the Argentine," which Cheever wrote in Boston two years ago, describes an encounter between a man who wants to put his hat on a statue and a girl who is studying embalming.
"The Swimmer," one of Cheever's best known works, is about an upper class man who makes a journey around his suburban country by swimming through his neighbors' pools.
In "The Death of Justina," a businessman must ask the mayor of his community for a secret exception to zoning laws because his cousin Justina is dying in a ward where death is illegal.
Although he is now working on his next novel, Cneever said he has not given up writing short stories. "I'll write a short story if I feel like it," he said.