Critical Mass

From the Journals of John Cheever


The following excerpt from the Journals of John Cheever continues theIn Retrospect series look back at John Cheever's 1977 NBCC finalist, “Falconer.” 

In reading old journals with Farragut's letters in mind, I come on the fact that, for nearly three years, I wrote A. love letters and received flirtatious letters from A. I think I will destroy these pages of the journal. I cannot arrive at any satisfactory recollection of this passionate love. The recollection of any infatuation is bound to seem mysterious, but I would like to go further than to exclaim about my self-deception. During this time I seldom saw him. He had in his favor the fact that he was outstandingly gifted, and I thought, comely. He wrote continually about his homosexuality. What troubles me seems to be his aesthetic. How did this long-waisted man come to take such a dominating position in my pastoral landscape? Here were the trees, the grass, the dry stone wall, and the stream that might contain trout. What is this curious figure doing here? I was lonely — a fact that I can state easily enough, although I am absolutely incapable of imagining a loneliness powerful enough to grant him a commanding place in this scene. They say that people born under my constellation are truly halved. Here, again, one comes to aesthetics. No one is half a man. I find this unacceptable. I was cruelly torn when I left my brother, cruelly torn when B. left me. I was torn, but not bisected. I had quite enough steam to go on. Why, then, should I have so needed A.? I need him no more; I rather dislike the thought of seeing him again; but one always says this about a love affair that is unrequited and has been forgotten. And then, thinking of opportunities, I remember that while feeling complete with L., I could at certain hours of the day — dusk, of course — feel, even with her in my arms, a profound longing for A., who would appear long-waisted and quite ridiculous in comparison. Is contempt at the bottom of this longing — must I, for a total erotic gratification, embrace someone who is naked and contemptible? If this is true I find it unacceptable. I find it truly unacceptable.

from The Journals of John Cheever