Words of Wisdom:

"gara rakshya sabko pashupatinath" - Bubu

John Cheever's 'Reunion' - 1

  • Date Submitted: 10/28/2012 08:10 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 73.2 
  • Words: 530
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It's less than a thousand words long but it packs a wallop that resonates down through the years. It's one of the best shorts I have ever read. Actually, the first time I didn't read it. I heard it, as a New Yorker podcast. I thought it a little over-warmed that time - a whisky soaked relic from the fifties. I have since learned that listening is the poor relation of reading. Listening with pictures though, after first listening, then reading, is a heartening experience...

The story is a basic one. Charlie has a meeting with his father. The real entertainment comes from the behaviour and attitudes of the father. He seems hell bent on using irony and disdain to prove some far off distant point that no one can quite seem to grasp, least of all him. He shouts a lot, is sarcastic and boorish. In some ways he is hilarious company, in others, a monster. The behaviour might be the result of drunkeness, but it also seems more than that. There seems to be a keen misanthropy deep under the surface, yet there is also a sense of joy that the father has in getting 'a rise' out of people - almost as if he is trying to wake the sleeping world. I love this idea - a character trying to break some kind of social seal with wonder and hard irony: "I have a whistle that is audible only to the ears of old waiters".

The brilliance of the story is that none of these motivations and behaviours outweighs the others. The father is a perfectly balanced enigma - and so, naturally, is the son. Charlie is the counterpoint to this father in that he is quiet while the father is loud. But he is no less enigmatic for that. The story is framed by the key phrase 'The last time I saw my father...' but Charlie never says why. He doesn't comment on his father's behaviour at all - he merely describes it. The only active thing he does is state that he has to catch his train - but is this true or is he just trying to escape the situation? He doesn't say. It might even be that Charlie is the devil -...


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