Title: The Falconer
Author: John Cheever
Rating: 4 stars
This is a very short book (220-odd pages) and yet it still took me a week to read because I had so many Hendrix people in my home this weekend. Long story short–I was too busy playing hostess to sit quietly and open up The Falconer.
Anyway, I finally finished last night and must say that I have never read anything quite like it. As I mentioned in my last post, the novel is about a university professor, husband and father, drug addict, Zeke Farragut, in prison for murdering his brother. Prison becomes for him a kind of purgatory where he muses over his life thus far: his failures, successes, and disappointments.
Not a whole lot happens in the story, but I enjoyed the existential musings over injustice and how life takes on a new meaning (or at least loses the old meaning) when behind bars. You don’t find out what happened between Zeke and his brother until the end of the story and
I won’t ruin it for you but the ending is not what you would expect.
The Falconer uncovers and explores friendships, enmity, jealousy, and love between the prisoners. You almost feel like you’re peeking through a cell window uninvited, which is always recipe for intrigue. However, there were sections of the book, like when Farragut writes a bunch of letters to a priest, old girlfriend, etc., that were too long. These parts had me skimming. I also thought that Cheever drew the ending out a little too long, but perhaps that’s because I was exhausted.
It has been deemed a great American novel (and is part of TIME’s 100 all time novels), and I think this is somewhat true. The novel is uncouth, dry, violent, and individualistic in a very Nathaniel West sort of way. And underneath it all is a character-gone-astray struggling with his past and what it means for his future.
FYI: don’t read this book if you shy from violent descriptions/bodily fluids/foul language.