A Candle in a Mineshaft


Posted on January 1, 1970 by Blake Leath

Strolling thru Barnes & Noble the other day with my wife and daughter, I stumbled across a biography by Blake Bailey entitled Cheever: A Life.  Reading the jacket, I bought the 770-pages brick and am consumed by it in the margins of night time and pre-flight checks.

John Cheever, the highly acclaimed and prolific author of Falconer, The Wapshot Chronicle, and dozens of The New Yorker short stories was one miserable soul.  He said it himself, and I agree.

I’m in 'Chapter 1960' (he lived from 1912 to 1982), and his life remains a dark, overcast sky of alcoholism, loneliness, identity confusion, and depression.

It is heart wrenching yet engrossing to read as he fights, fails, and rises again, only to be consumed by disparaging thoughts, self-doubt, worry, feelings of inadequacy, and so much more.  His life is a proverbial yo-yo caught in the downward position.

I remain hopeful that – as his alcoholism lifts – the clouds may part. 

But I am doubtful; the omens indicate otherwise and I suspect that my hopefulness for him will be dashed by reality.

But I will learn nonetheless and, perhaps, come to appreciate all the more what so many of us take for granted.  Namely, a belief that many if not all things work for good, that tomorrow might be better than yesterday and that, as Viktor Frankl wrote, there is meaningfulness in hope itself.