The Family of John Cheever vs. Academy Chicago Publishers
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A lawyerly avalanche befalls a well-intentioned small press, Academy Chicago Publishers, for its attempt to issue The Uncollected Stories of John Cheever. Academy Chicago’s cofounder Miller tells her side of a precipitous story in clean, minimalist prose. According to her, what began in 1987 as a modest effort to gather all of Cheever’s 68 uncollected stories gradually snowballed into an expensive and humiliating compromise. The result, after 10 years of legal drama: a compilation of merely 13 stories; wretched relations with the Cheever family; and noses in the air from many New York City literary arbiters. Dutifully documented in conversations and letters exchanged among Miller, her husband, Jordan, and the Cheevers, their agents, reporters, and attorneys is the heartbreak that comes of putting an idea out there, fighting to pursue it, and then losing—basically—for lack of funds. Another source of despair: the insults and professional slander accumulated along the way. Miller reports that the Cheevers” lawyer, Martin Garbus, cheerfully “warned writers to beware of small publishers: they might not have much money, and even if they are solvent, he said, there have been “troubling cases” in which they did not “follow standard industry practice in editing, publishing or marketing.” ” As for the Cheevers themselves, their motive in attacking Academy Chicago legally seemed to be acquisitiveness. Confided one of Cheever’s offspring, “I—m a greedy pig. All my life I—ve wanted to be rich. Haven—t you?” But formally and publicly, their legal action instead argued that “publication of the projected book of short stories would hurt John Cheever’s reputation because these stories were poor” and alleged, in Miller’s words, “the “total” incapability of our small press to perform contractual obligations already entered into.” An almost unbelievable—though not unfamiliar’story of a literary enterprise quashed by money and “the law.”

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8476-9076-8
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998