Books by Benjamin Cheever

THE GOOD NANNY by Benjamin Cheever
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 5, 2004

"Although Cheever's parody of suburbia ('Tara-on-Hudson') and publishing ('Bathos Literary Agency') can be a tad heavy-handed, this is an immensely funny and sharp account of the vanity of human wishes."
In a topsy-turvy suburbia, the memoir-author (Selling Ben Cheever, 2002) and novelist (Famous After Death, 1999, etc.) visits the sorrows of Job upon a hapless book editor who hires a mysterious nanny who turns out to be his undoing—and salvation. Read full book review >
FAMOUS AFTER DEATH by Benjamin Cheever
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 28, 1999

John Cheever's son (The Partisan, 1994, etc.) follows in the footsteps, if not quite in the spirit, of his father in this witty send-up of politics, publishing, and crime—and of the synergy they generate on really good days. Noel Hammersmith is an editor at prestigious Acropolis Press (Kafka's first American publisher), where he edits diet books and dreams of getting himself down to 138 pounds. A Westchester commuter with a true Walter Mitty streak, Noel takes out his many daily frustrations by writing venomous letters to companies that have earned his wrath, including Brooks Brothers (for discontinuing their classic Brooks Blue shirt) and Golden Rule Vitamins (for selling weight-loss products that failed to help Noel lose weight). He also begins negotiations for a manuscript with an author who calls himself Che Guevara; the proposed book will describe terrorist networks and how they operate in the US. Soon afterward, a succession of extremely powerful homemade bombs is set off in public places around New York by someone known as the "Wordsworth Bomber——whom Noel, of course, suspects to be Che. Uncovering a bizarre anti-immigration cult that is linked to Che, he finds himself wanting to broadcast its political ramblings across the entire country. Has Noel, through his interest in Che's book, become implicated in a nativist cult? What is Noel's first duty here: to his country, or to his author? Or is it to his own career? Acropolis Press, after all, is being bought out (by a pet food company called Pretty Kitty, Inc.), and everyone's job is on the line. Noel has a hard time sorting out his loyalties, but in the end he makes a deal with both the police and with Che that results in a fate that Noel could never have imagined even in his most fervid daydreams—and that makes him a very thin man. Hilarious and just bad-natured enough to be cruel (that is, accurate) in its satire of modern greed and modern fame: an across- the-board winner. Read full book review >
THE PARTISAN by Benjamin Cheever
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 1, 1994

Once again, Cheever (The Plagiarist, 1992) chronicles life with a distinguished writer—in a novel that's even more diffuse than his first. Not nearly as funny as it thinks it is, this hurried fiction sets off in all sorts of directions, and never finds its way back. Nelson Collingwood, a 20-year-old virgin, and his sexually advanced sister live with their guardians, Aunt Elspeth and Uncle Jonas, in Westchester. Jonas is a much-admired but always broke novelist who rents a house on the Rockefeller estate, where he imposes his high-cultural view of things (e.g., no TV). After 16 novels with a small publisher known primarily for farm equipment catalogues, Jonas receives a huge advance for a WW II memoir, which his new publisher hopes will be his breakout book—the only problem being some doubt about Jonas's actual involvement in the war. Meanwhile, NYU student Nelson, an aspiring ad-copywriter, works for the summer at a local freebie ad paper, all the while pining for one Amy Rose, a suburban goddess spending her summer in Washington State. Nelson's ``Goodbye Columbus'' story is soon superseded by strange doings at home, where an obsequious biographer has attached himself to Jonas. All of which forces the family to reexamine its rather odd history, involving Aunt Elspeth's much prettier sister and the true parentage of Nelson and his own sister. While the biographer flatters his way into Jonas's life, Jonas's obnoxious new editor pressures him for a real commercial book. And Jonas delivers in record time so that he can bail out his sister-in-law from a bad debt and also buy Nelson a fancy car, which becomes the vehicle of his accidental death. Cheever fleshes out this elliptical tale with lots of sitcom sarcasm, plenty of bad jokes, and many pointless barbs at the innocent. His animus toward biographers and publishers may be justified, but seems like plain sour grapes here. All in all, a mess. Read full book review >
THE PLAGIARIST by Benjamin Cheever
Released: May 1, 1992

John Cheever's son, a former editor at Reader's Digest, debuts in fiction with a novel about a famous writer's son who works as an editor at a magazine just like—what else?—Reader's Digest. The none-too-subtly named Arthur Prentice, who lives in the shadow of his National Book Award-winning dad, Icarus, is something of a class-A schnook. Slaving away for peanuts at a local newspaper in Westchester County, he can't get any respect. Not from his wife, the voluptuous Faith, who has denied him sex since the birth of their troubled son, Nathan. Nor from his father, an alcoholic widower with an acid tongue. Arthur's only thrills come from masturbating in the back of his van while imagining murdered women. Most of this changes, however, when the suburban nebbish decides to sell out—he takes an entry-level job at The American Reader, the world's most popular magazine, famous for its right-wing politics and its uplifting prose. Owned by a kind and generous self-made multimillionaire (with decidedly pedestrian taste), the magazine is run by a staff of snobs. Arthur fits in fine, and proves adept at office politics. His salary soars into the six figures just when he succeeds at becoming the office ``rat fink,'' or, as one fellow editor calls him, ``an asshole and a whore.'' After the owner dies, the corporate beneficence stops, and the number-crunchers take over, but Arthur comes out near the top. Improbably, he rediscovers his conscience when his boss badgers him to coax his father to write for the magazine—about cats! Arthur's other self-proclaimed ``epiphany'' has something to do with killing the woman inside himself as he overcomes the sorrows of having a famous father. As a roman Ö clef about the Digest, this is a gossipy good read. Otherwise, the plot—and the prose—lumber along to no great literary purpose. Read full book review >