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John Cheever - George McLoone collection

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS259

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

This collection comprises correspondence between George McLoone, university professor and alumnus of Georgetown University, and John Cheever, the American writer. All of the correspondence takes place between the years of 1966-1974. Although most of the letters are brief in length, the correspondence between Cheever and McLoone are significant because of the insight they provide into the personal life of John Cheever. Many of the letters contain comments about Cheever's acquaintences and on contemporary society in general. Among the famous figures mentioned in the correspondence are literary historian Malcolm Cowley, actress Sophia Loren, and novelist Paul Theroux. Sporadic references to other well-known individuals occur throughout the collection.

ABBREVIATIONS TLS = typed letter signed


  • 1966-1974

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical notes

Best know for his depiction of the emptiness at heart of the so-called American Dream, John Cheever was born in Quincy, Massachusetts to Frederick Lincoln Cheever and Mary Devereaux Liley Cheever on May 27, 1912. His father was in the shoe manufacturing business until the 1929 stock market crash when he lost his job and became a serious alcoholic.Cheever's enterprising mother managed to support the family by opening up both a gift and dress shop. Her position as the dominant breadwinner was to cause tension in the family and earn her resentment from Cheever himself. Cheever's formal education ended in 1930 when, at age seventeen, he was expelled from the Thayer Academy in nearby South Braintree for poor grades and smoking. This proved to be a catalyst for Cheever's career because it was this incident that inspired him to write his first published story "Expelled" , or as he later referred to it, "the reminiscences of a sorehead". He promptly sent it to Malcolm Cowley, then the literary editor of The New Republic, who published it on October 1, 1930. Cowley was to remain an important figure in Cheever's both personal and professional lives. Cheever lived with his brother Fred from 1930-1934 during which he made the acquaintences of important members of the literary sect, including E.E. Cummings and Hazel Hawthrone Werner. Cowley encouraged Cheever to apply for admission to the Yaddo artists' colony in Saratoga Springs, which he was admitted to in 1934. That same year The New Yorker published "Brooklyn Rooming House", the first of the 119 Cheever stories they would publish, making him, after John O' Hare, the most extensively published short story writer in the magazine's history. In 1941, he married Mary Winterniz, who was working for his literary agent, Maxim Lieber, at the time. Mary was the daughter of Dr. Milton Winternitz, a pathologist who eventually became dean of the Yale University Medical School and Dr. Helen Watson, one of the first women in the United States to earn a medical degree. In the years that followed, John Cheever's work was published in magazines such as The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Collier's. His first collection of short stories, The Way Some People Live, was published in 1943. In May 7, 1942, Cheever enlisted in the army where he spent the next four years. Although Cheever never reached the front lines, his time in the armed forces did inspire to produce a few short stories. In 1951, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which enabled him to become a full time writer. His first novel, The Wapshot Chronicle (1957), won the National Book Award in 1958. The success of this novel, along with a second Guggenheim Fellowship, enabled Cheever to purchase a home in upscale Ossining, New York where he would remain for the rest of his life. As Cheever became more successful, his addiction to alcohol became more serious. His drinking habit began to have a negative effect on his work and caused friction between him and his peers. Cheever's productivity slowed and in 1969 he published the novel Bullet Park to mixed reviews. The hostile critical reaction to his novel caused Cheever to fall even deeper into his alcoholism. After having to be detoxified twice at Phelps Memorial Hospital, he finally checked himself into the Smithers Alcohol Rehabilitation Center in 1975, where he would face a long recovery made even more difficult by the fact that he had suffered from a massive heart attack just three years earlier. addiction became so serious that he had to be admitted into the Smithers rehabilitation center However, Cheever managed to defeat his alcoholism and became completely sober. The publication of one of his best works, Falconer (1977), soon followed. In this novel, Cheever fictionalizes his experiences as a writing instructor at the Sing Sing correctional facility and his recovery from alcholism and drug addiction. Falconer won Cheever much wealth and critical acclaim. Following the success of Falconer, Cheever became the recipient of several impressive awards. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard as well as the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award in 1979 for the Stories of John Cheever (1978). After producing his final work, Oh What a Paradise it Seems (1982), John Cheever died quietly in his home in Ossining, New York of kidney and bone cancer on June 18, 1982.

George McLoone was born on August 14, 1945 in Grosse Point, Michigan. Most of his youth was spent in Phoenix, Arizona where his father practiced medicine, like his father before him. McLoon became interested in Cheever while still in high school. McLoone's family had a subscription to The New Yorker, which, at the time was frequently publishing Cheever's stories. It was by reading The New Yorker that McLoone was first exposed to Cheever's work. After attending a Jesuit high school in Phoenix, McLoone received an honorary scholarship to Georgetown University, and it was there that his interest in Cheever grew. Although originally a pre-med student, McLoone soon abandoned the prospects of continuing the line of physicians in his family and returned to his primary interest, English. McLoone made it his goal to become as knowledgeable as he could be about at least one writer. Because of his previous exposure to Cheever, he seemed like the natural choice. His American Literature professor, Richard Rupp, encouraged this interest in Cheever. Later, while writing a paper on Cheever, McLoone had the idea of writing to Cheever in order to obtain a direct quote from himthat would support his thesis. Much to his surprise, Cheever wrote back. During the next eight years, Cheever and McLoone wrote to each other a number of times. McLoone also made the occasional visit to Cheever's home in Ossining, NY, although a close personal relationship never really developed. McLoone graduated from Georgetown University in 1967 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He went on to earn his Master's Degree in English from the University of Virginia in 1968 and his Doctorate in English from George Washington University 1982. McLoone has spent thirty-two years teaching college level English, most recently at Northern Virginia Community College. He has devoted much of his academic career to the study of Early Modern Literature, with an emphasis on Milton. McLoone is the author of several publications on Milton, including Milton's Poetry of Independence, and is currently working on a book about Milton's Paradise Regained. Despite his focus on Early Modern Literature, he still maintains a strong interest in Cheever's work, life and family.


0.20 Linear Feet (1 Hollinger Slim Document Case)

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John Cheever - George McLoone collection
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057