By Alexander Nazaryan
... In 1964, Time magazine called Cheever “Ovid in Ossining,” because he saw what he called in one story “the pain and sweetness of life” as fully as the Roman poet had two millennia before him. Ovid, of course, spent the last decade of his exile from Rome in the desolation of Tomis (today, Romania). Cheever exiled himself, leaving Manhattan in 1951 for Westchester County and never returning. That journey into the manicured countryside beyond the Bronx would define his career more than his impoverished Massachusetts childhood or posh Sutton Place, where he lived while becoming famous for his New Yorker stories.
... Unlike his brother, Fred, who succumbed to alcoholism, Cheever quit drinking in 1975, devoting himself seriously to Alcoholics Anonymous. Two years later, he published Falconer, based on his experience teaching at the nearby prison (he had started doing so in 1971, after deciding that he’d “exhausted his old landscapes”). Joan Didion called the novel “extraordinary” in The New York Times. This magazine put Cheever on the cover, calling Falconer a “great American novel.” Five years later, Cheever died of cancer.