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Bullet Park (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 19 Mar 1992

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (19 Mar. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099914107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099914105
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 248,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"In a class by itself, not only among Cheever's work but among all novels I know" (Joseph Heller)

"Cheever's deepest, most challenging book" (New York Times)

"John Cheever's prose is always a pleasure to read because it is both graceful and governed" (Chicago Tribune)

"A master American storyteller" (Time)

"Cheever writes a restrained, half -mocking hymn to the delusions of comfortable America which is a pleasure to read" (Guardian)

Book Description

'I fell hopelessly in love with John Cheever last year... He was, and his fiction is, extraordinary. I love the way you never know what on Earth is going to happen next' Philip Hensher

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard on 19 Feb. 2014
Actually, my choice of this was based upon Cheever's reputation as an excellent short story writer and I would have preferred a collection of his shorter pieces if it had been available as an audio title. It currently isn't. This novel has the polished economy and precision one might anticipate from a master short story writer. It's a beautifully crafted, perfectly paced tale which never flags and constantly engages with it's witty, subtle evocation of place and character.

Although a serious 'literary' novel about suburbia on the Eastern seaboard of America in the late 60's, (it was published in 1969) there's nothing 'worthy' or hard work about this encapsulation of the state of the nation. The realism is rich and engaging. It delightfully surprises as we follow narratives illuminating the interior lives of the small cast of characters; a progress full of the unexpected. There's a certain enchantment involved in Cheever's brand of realism.

The entertainment is never at the expense of cogent, convincing depiction, however. Cheever's analysis is sensitive but unsentimental. The balance between the spiritual and the pragmatic is particularly well observed. Beneath the existential mundanity an interior wealth is revealed without a trace of corniness. The observational tone is wry, poetic and ultimately sympathetic.

This is insightful storytelling shot through with dark, alcoholic, humour which never descends into cynicism. All is revealed in beautiful, clear prose. It's classy, intelligent, unstuffy stuff, indeed.

I can't wait for the short story collection to be published as audio book; particularly if narrated by the chap who did this one. A five star performance all-round.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rotten Johnny on 5 Sept. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Easy to read, amusing, yet sometimes tragic, Bullet Park is a fine example of John Cheever's style of writing, imagination and story-telling.
Although odd at times, I was compelled to finish this book in just a few days, such is Cheever's ability to entertain the reader.
Hammer & Nailles! The two characters who go through life experiencing its many highs and lows.
This is a fine book to read if one is looking to see just what made John Cheever so special.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Dec. 2000
Format: Paperback
Oddly enough, I was going to work as extra in a TV film and, being very bored, I borrowed this book from a friend that was also there (this was the only other book he had in his hands at that moment). I had never read anything from John Cheever before, and I found it quite fascinating. It is very well written and the characters are wonderfully depicted, especially Hammer in his slow descent towards madness, and Nails in his movement from suburbian contentment to suburbian depression. The book manages to be at the same time a satire and a celebration of life in the suburbs of America, with sweet and sour moments alike. I plan to read more Cheever books now.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Melanie Rose Fallon on 28 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
smooth sailing, I will use them again indeed if I require the purchase of anything such as this again for sure.
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Amazon.com: 0 reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Superb suburban saga 12 Aug. 2002
By A.J. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The realm of much of Cheever's fiction is the affluent suburban sprawl of Thruway-threaded upstate New York, Westchester County and environs. Like the infamous Shady Hill of his short stories, Bullet Park is a whitebread outpost for white-collar professionals who commute daily to the city and drink heavily on weekends, and often weekdays. In a comfortable house on a comfortable street in this town lives Eliot Nailles, a chemist whose specialty is mouthwash and who plies his craft with the conviction that bad breath can lead to global destruction, a respectable family man devoted to his wife Nellie and his teenage son Tony, and an avid churchgoer, although more out of a sense of duty than piety.

Tony's privileged status as an only child and a middle class Baby Boomer has bred an adolescence painful both to himself and to his parents, and he still continues to teeter on the brink of knuckleheadedness. With the insight of a child psychologist and the wisdom of an embattled father, Cheever recounts Tony's various phases: his addiction to television, his threat against his French teacher, his strange sudden interest in poetry, the brash older woman he invites to his parents' house for lunch, and especially his mysterious depression which confines him to bed for weeks and requires the healing power of a "swami" whose idea of therapy is to repeat mantras.

One day a man named Paul Hammer and his wife Marietta move into Bullet Park and befriend the Nailleses. Through first person narration, Paul reveals his colorful past: The illegitimate child of a wealthy, sculpturally ideal father and an eccentric, bookish mother, he uses his Yale education to drift drunkenly through life, translate the work of an Italian poet, and search for the perfect home -- one with a room with yellow walls. His mother's hatred of American capitalism inspires him to murder a well-to-do suburbanite as some kind of statement against bourgeois complacency -- and the man he chooses happens to be Tony Nailles.
The climax is quite surprising and arrives at a moment of the highest suspense and tension, an unusual technique for Cheever, who tends to use dialogue, thoughts, and impressions rather than action to resolve his characters' conflicts. But Cheever's fiction is always full of surprises, even though his subject matter seldom changes; his talent lies in his ability to imagine fascinating stories lurking behind the bland facades of American suburbia and crystallize them with his reliably brilliant prose. "Bullet Park" is a satire and a comedy; it patiently observes suburban provinciality and materialism, and even raises a question about oyster etiquette, all while holding up a distorted mirror to an anticipated readership that lives in places very much like the one it describes.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
"Paint me a small railroad station, then" 12 July 2005
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I remember reading this book when it came out, and feeling disappointed that it wasn't a more powerful, apocalyptic novel. Those were the 60s after all, a time when we still looked to our novels for the answers to the day's problems. Cheever wasn't interested in solving problems. As we now know, he was torn in a psychic split between different parts of his identity--the average family man, colorless and yet possessed by a love divine, vs. the bisexual swinger who lives for sensation and the authenticity of the gutter.

BULLET PARK represents this conflict in allegorical terms, and now I can see that the two neighbors and antagonists, Nailles and Hammer, form two halves of the same person. Well, that's a crude way of putting it, but at any rate reading back into the biography they perhaps represent two of Cheever's warring personalities, and in their conflict over the future of Tony Nailles, the appealing teenage son, they are going to war themselves. At stake is nothing less than the future of American literature.

I always thought this would have been a good movie--back in the day I wrote Cheever a note asking him to make sure that Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas would play Hammer and Nailles in the film version. He was polite but non-committal. And I don't know who would be good among today's actors. I picked Lancaster and Douglas because those two, who of course made many pictures together, gave off the almost untangible sensation of somehow having been made for each other, like the way Plato wrote that we are all looking for the other half of the soul we were once part of. Thus even when they were playing antagonists, Lancaster and Douglas still seemed to be seeking each other out, not in an erotic way especially, but in a search for meaning that would never end.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Bullet Park is John Cheever's fine novel of suburbia. 4 Dec. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
John Cheever, the master chronicler of suburbia, wrote a great novel of the odd suburb Bullet Park. As John Updike said, "It took an effortlessly moral nature to imagine fall and redemption in that realm of soft lawns and comfortable homes." It is a simple story, but its greatness lies in its telling. From the first sentence, "Paint me a small railroad station then, ten minutes before dark," Bullet Park ensnares the reader in its strange web. It also contains some of the most wonderful sentences ever written, such as this one, "Outside I could hear the brook, some night bird, moving leaves, and all the sounds of the night world seemed endearing as if I quite literally loved the night as one loves a woman, loved the stars, the trees, the weeds in the grass as one can love with the same ardor a woman's breasts and the applecore she has left in an ashtray."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
button down fiction 23 Jan. 2004
By J. G. Gimbel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an engaging story. It takes on suburbia and treats it poetically. It tells the story of two men, Hammer and Nailles. Really, it is two novellas, the first about Nailles. There isn't much interaction between the two men until the end. It looks like a rather simple story with much subtle humor (like the two men's names) at the beginning and gets darker and more twisted as it moves forward.
Stay away from reading the book's jacket. It gives away too much of the story.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Are white picket fences worht it? 20 Mar. 2001
By "not-me" - Published on Amazon.com
Yay! I loved this book. Finally, an author that doesn't have to break into four page long philosophical tangents to get his point across. By making this story an actual story, I think Cheever gives the reader the chance to decipher the metaphor of suburbia for his/herself. Not only is it profound, but it's entertaining as well--a rarity in classic fiction, I believe.
And this was extremely entertaining and well written. I enjoyed being able to define the characters through their actions (not through several paragraphs of interspection) although classifying them is not as clear cut. There are elements involved with both Hammer and Nailles that apply to the "every man".
The "villian" is the one who attempts to "save" America, and the "hero" unknowingly stops the horrific action that would have destroyed his family. The layers in this novel pile on each other, but the density is masked within the constant forward motion of the plot. Great book!
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