Books

The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait

Meet the Baileys: Burck, a prosperous lawyer once voted the American Legion’s “Citizen of the Year” in his tiny hometown of Vinita, Oklahoma; his wife Marlies, who longs to recapture her festive life in Greenwich Village as a pretty young German immigrant, fresh off the boat; their addled son Scott, who repeatedly crashes the family Porsche; and Blake, the younger son, trying to find a way through the storm. “You’re gonna be just like me,” a drunken Scott taunts him. “You’re gonna be worse.”
The Splendid Things We Planned is his darkly funny account of growing up in the shadow of an erratic and increasingly dangerous brother, an exhilarating and sometimes harrowing story that culminates in one unforgettable Christmas.

Farther & Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson

Charles Jackson’s novel The Lost Weekend—the story of five disastrous days in the life of an alcoholic man—was published in 1944 to triumphant success. Nearly half a million copies were sold within five years; the book was added to the prestigious Modern Library and was made into an award-winning film starring Ray Milland. Sober since 1936, Jackson did not wish to go down in history as the author of a thinly veiled autobiography about a crypto-homosexual drunk, but The Lost Weekend was all but entirely based on his own experience, and Jackson’s valiant struggles fill these pages. Though he was a doting family man and a celebrated spokesman for AA, Jackson ultimately found it nearly impossible to write without the stimulus of pills or alcohol. Rich with incident and character, Farther & Wilder is the moving story of an artist whose commitment to bringing forbidden subjects into the popular discourse was far ahead of his time.

Cheever: A Life

John Cheever was one of the foremost chroniclers of post-war America, a peerless writer who on his death in 1982 left some of the best short stories of the twentieth century, a number of highly acclaimed novels, and a private journal that runs to an astonishing four million words. Cheever was a soul in conflict who hid his contradictions—alcoholism, secret bisexuality—behind the screen of genial family life in suburbia. Blake Bailey reveals the troubled but strangely lovable man behind these disguises, a creator of timeless fiction.

A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates

Celebrated in his prime, forgotten in his final years, only to be championed anew by our greatest contemporary authors, Richard Yates has always exposed readers to the unsettling hypocrisies of our modern age. In this entertaining biography, Yates himself serves as the fascinating lens into mid-century America, a world of would-be artists, depressed housewives, addled businessmen, high living, wistful striving, and self-deception.

The Lost Weekend, introduction by Blake Bailey

The classic tale of one man’s struggle with alcoholism, this revolutionary novel remains Charles Jackson’s best-known book—a daring autobiographical work that paved the way for contemporary addiction literature.

It is 1936, and on the East Side of Manhattan, a would-be writer named Don Birnam decides to have a drink. And then another, and then another, until he’s in the midst of what becomes a five-day binge. The Lost Weekend moves with unstoppable speed, propelled by a heartbreaking but unflinching truth. It catapulted Charles Jackson to fame, and endures as an acute study of the ravages of alcoholism, as well as an unforgettable parable of the condition of the modern man.

The Sunnier Side and Other Stories, edited and with an introduction by Blake Bailey

A masterful collection of short stories exposing the seamy undercurrents of small-town American life from Charles Jackson, celebrated author of The Lost Weekend.

A selection of Jackson’s finest tales, The Sunnier Side and Other Stories explores the trials of adolescence in America during the tumultuous years of the early twentieth century. Set in the town of Arcadia in upstate New York, the stories in this collection address the unspoken issues—homosexuality, masturbation, alcoholism, to name a few—lurking just beneath the surface of the small-town ideal.

The Sunnier Side showcases Jackson at the height of his storytelling powers, reaffirming his reputation as a boundary-pushing, irreverent writer years ahead of his time.

John Cheever: Collected Stories and Other Writings, edited by Blake Bailey

Set in the tony suburbs of Westchester and Connecticut, John Cheever’s stories charted a country that has become as identifiable and essential to American literature as those of Faulkner or Hawthorne. This landmark volume combines the entire Pulitzer Prize-winning collection The Stories of John Cheever (1978) with seven selections from Cheever’s first book, The Way Some People Live (1943)—here restored to print—and seven additional stories first published in periodicals between 1930 and 1953. Included are masterpieces such as “The Enormous Radio,” “Goodbye, My Brother,” “The Country Husband,” and “The Swimmer,” as well as lesser-known gems such as Cheever’s remarkable first published story, “Expelled,” written when he was 18. Rounding out the volume are essays about writers and writing, including a reminiscence about Malcolm Cowley, an appreciation of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and an account of a visit to Chekhov’s house in Yalta.

John Cheever: Complete Novels, edited by Blake Bailey

In his dazzling novels, John Cheever laid bare the failings and foibles of the ascendant postwar elite as well as the fallen Yankee aristocrats who stubbornly—and often grotesquely and hilariously—cling to their shabby gentility as the last vestige of former glory. Yet even in his most satiric portraits, Cheever showed himself to be as compassionate as he was incisive. His prose sparkles with wry, playful intelligence in every line. The Library of American celebrates Cheever’s achievement with this definitive collection of his five novels: the riotous family saga The Wapshot Chronicle (winner of the National Book Award) and its sequel The Wapshot Scandal (winner of the William Dean Hwells Medal); the dark suburban drama Bullet Park (“a magnificent work of fiction,” John Gardner wrote in the New York Times Book Review); the prison novel Falconer, a radical departure that met with both critical and popular acclaim; and the lyrical ecological fable Oh What a Paradise It Seems.