An article by Brock Clarke on therumpus.net sparked my interest about John Cheever recently. I can tell Brock Clarke is a die-hard fan of Cheever's, which endears me to Clarke, though I don't totally share his sentiments. I've often found myself trying to listen to the slight nuances of language in Cheever's stories and have many a time fallen asleep while doing so. I will admit, though, there have been these beautiful moments before my dozing slumber when I've actually said, "Holy shit! I think Denis Johnson stole that." He does possess those moments, if one can possess posthumously. Anyhow, I'd like to revisit the topic of relevancy as pertaining to the talented (but possibly one-note) writers I mentioned in earlier posts. Cheever had a style. It was distinctly and remarkably his, and as far as I know, he never strayed from this style. Neither, then, did he evolve (which is also apparently true to Cheever as a person according to the new biography), and perhaps this is why contemporary readers and writers find him to be obsolete, like my friend's living-room-sized laser-disc collection.
Recently, Roberto Bolano translator Natasha Wimmer spoke here in San Francisco. Quoting from therumpus.net who is quoting from Wimmer, she said she was "struck by how different Bolaño’s novels are from one another." Bolano, it seems, may be the 13-sided D&D die to our voracious appetite for change (6 sides were never enough for us). God knows nobody's blown up so quickly on such a wide scale in recent memory. The guy's dead, and still, every time a new piece of Bolano's is translated, it feels like a new life has started. Of course, you can't give all credit for his late American success to his diversified literary portfolio, but I have to think it might be at least a small portion of his success puzzle. Do we truly want to read to be surprised? Can the surprise come from just plot, or can it come from language? Any thoughts? There's a lot here, including whether or not this evolution is an American literary fetish, but maybe someone can help me tackle it?