THE PLAGIARIST by Benjamin Cheever


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 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.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-689-12153-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1992


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