John Cheever (1912-1982) was een Amerikaanse schrijver. Hij hield een groot deel van zijn leven een dagboek bij. Hij had altijd veel bewondering voor zijn collega John Updike, en was ontdaan toen hij op 1 juni 1976 door een radiostation gebeld werd met de mededeling dat Updike zou zijn overleden. Later bleek dat niet te kloppen.
The telephone rings at four. “This is C.B.C. John Updike has been in a fatal automobile accident. Do you care to comment?” I am crying. I cannot sleep again. I think of joining Mary in bed, but I am afraid she will send me away. I think I am right. When there is a little light I feed the dogs. “I hope they don’t expect to be fed this early every morning,” she says. I do not point out that John will not die every morning, and that in any case it is I who feed them. This restraint costs me nothing. When I go into the kitchen for another cup of coffee, she empties the pot into my cup and says, “I was just about to have some myself.” When I insist on sharing the coffee I am unsuccessful. I do not say that the pain of death is nothing compared to the pain of sharing a coffeepot with a peevish woman. This, again, costs me nothing. And I see that what she seeks, much more than a cup of coffee, is the gratification of a sense of denial and neglect—and that we so often, all of us, put our cranky and emotional demands so far ahead of our hunger and thirst.
As for John, he was a man I so esteemed as a colleague and so loved as a friend that his loss is indescribable. He was a prince. I think it not difficult to kiss him goodbye—I can think of no other way of parting from him, although he would, in my case, have been embarrassed. I think him peerless as a writer of his generation; and his gift of communicating—to millions of strangers—his most exalted and desperate emotions was, in his case, fortified by immense and uncommon intelligence and erudition. John, quite alone in the field of aesthetics, remained shrewd. Mercifully, there is no consolation in thinking that his extraordinary brilliance presaged a cruel, untimely, and unnatural death. His common sense would have dismissed that as repulsive and vulgar. One misses his brightness—one misses it painfully—but one remembers that his life was dedicated to the description of enduring—and I definitely do not mean immortal—to enduring strains of sensuality and spiritual revelations.
So the call about John’s untimely death was a fraud. I have decided, says my daughter, that it was an overambitious stringer, who saw the name on a police blotter and tried to cash in. This is a wish founded on the desirable simplicity of being charitable; one of her best characteristics. I am distempered, forlorn, and idle.