Cheever, Benjamin. The Partisan. New York: Atheneum, 1993.
Right away Cheever wants you to laugh out loud. How could you not with an opening like this? “That was the summer I worked for the Westchester Commons. I was in love with Amy Snodgrass Rose. Amy was in love with David Hitchens. David was in love with Gloria Thomas. I was in Westchester. Amy was in Washington State. David was in Montreal. Gloria had gone to Paris. The sex was very safe” (p 1). I know I was thinking, “oh the poor schmuck” until I got to last sentence. At least the guy has a sense of humor. It’s even funnier when you find out the person speaking, the main protagonist Nelson, is a virgin.
So the gist of the story is this: Nelson narrates the story about his life with “Uncle”, “Aunt” and sister Narcissus in Westchester, New York. Nelson is 20 years old, and as I mentioned,
in love obsessed with Amy. “Uncle” really isn’t Nelson and Nar’s uncle. Jonas Collingwood and his wife Elspeth, took over raising Nelson and Nar after their adoptive father died. Jonas is a revered author on the verge stardom when a newspaper article hints his last book was a thinly veiled autobiography of his time in wartime Italy. He receives a huge advance to write a real memoir but what ensues is a comedy of errors and tragedies. Cheever has a dark side to him and while most of the story is relatively funny (Nelson is someone I would love to hang out with), there are moments is subtle uncomfortableness. My favorite scenes involve the car.
I should add that it took me only three days to read this book. It would have taken only two had I been a little more serious about reading. Cheever packs a strong story in a tight little package.
Likes I liked (other than the beginning), “I want the kind of love you don’t have to hear” (p 3), (Don’t we all?) and “Really, there ought to be a law about facial expressions” (p 223).
Reason read: Ben Cheever’s birth month is in October.
Author fact: Benjamin Cheever is the same age as my mom, older by mere days.
Book trivia: I feel bad for The Partisan. Every decent review of it mentions Cheever’s first novel The Plagiarist. It’s another one of those situations where you think, “crap! I’m reading the wrong book!”
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family: Writer Dynasties” (p 5).