top of page


Lapidary Prose from John Cheever


This week I stumbled. I failed to read my own notes accurately and complete the assignments for the week. I only completed two of the three exercises that George and I had agreed on. It is now that the huge benefit of having someone else undertaking this course of study really shows itself.

George did not shy away from asking why I hadn’t completed the work we had agreed, and the only reason I had was my own incompetence. Were I undertaking this alone it would be easy to forgive myself for this and swiftly move on, but now I feel that I have not only failed myself, but I have also let down my writing buddy. It’s not a big deal, George wasn’t offended in anyway, just accurate in his feedback.

In a way I am glad this has happened. It has let me know that George won’t hesitate to point out when I’m not fulfilling my side of the bargain we have. And that is a quality to be highly valued in a writing buddy. It has also caused me to renew my commitment to this work. Alone, it would be easy to drift in less than efficient and ever decreasing circles, but as George pointed out, “Haven’t you a schedule of writing time, as we planned?” I have just such a schedule and consequently no excuses at all for tardiness.

So, this week I shall not only complete the assignments set, but also complete my “missed” assignment.

It isn’t only my assignments I have been struggling with this week. I still haven’t finished reading ‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns. This 2018 Booker prize winning novel is not an easy read to be consumed at a single sitting, well, not for me anyway. The voice of the narrator is consistent throughout and although it is not stated the novel is set in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles’. I am not from that part of the world myself, yet while reading this book I can hear an Irish accent in the rhythm of the prose, in the way the sentences are constructed. This voice is held consistently throughout. It is worth reading for the display of the power of voice in writing and its unusual literary style, besides being a fascinating story.

Now to the header photo, a volume of the stories of John Cheever. I picked this up a few years ago as it looked interesting and read a few of the stories at that time. This volume does not figure in the two page list of suggested readings in Andrew Wille downloadable MA syllabus, but the story ‘The Bella Lingua’ is recommended by Janet Burrow at the end of Chapter 5 of ‘Writing Fiction’ as an exemplar of setting used in story. I shan’t comment on this Pulitzer prize winning author here but instead quote from his 1982 obituary:

“His prose was lapidary in precision, sensuous and visual in effect.” New York Times.

Craft Seminar Exercises completed

Writing Experiment 71 Sparking Joy - Decluttering.

Writing Experiment 48 Tales of your city, inspired by Armistead Maupin

Read a story with a sense of place. 1) Identify its individual settings and 2) List details that bring those settings to life. – I read the story but failed to complete the exercise!

All the above from

Current Reading

‘Writing Fiction’ Burroway, Chapter 5

‘Reading Like a Writer’ Francine Prose Chapters 6

‘The Art of the Character’ David Corbett Chapters 4

‘Milkman’ Anna Burns, almost finished

‘The Bella Lingua’ John Cheever

‘Bitter Orange’ Claire Fuller (reread)

17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page