Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Falconer by John Cheever

Farragut was adrug addict and felt that the conscious of the opium eater was much broader, more vast and representative of the human condition than the consciousness of someone who had never experienced drug addiction. The drug he needed was a distillate of earth, air, water and fire. He was mortal and his addiction was a beautiful illustration of the bounds of his mortality... Yesterday was the age of anxiety, the age of the fish, and today, his day, his morning, was the mysterious and adventurous age of the needle.

is the story of Ezekiel Farragut, phlegmatic university professor, heroin addict, and new inmate of Falconer prison, where he has been sentenced for ten years for fratricide. It is the prototypical "on the inside" novel, about how prison changes people and brings out qualities that had yet lay dormant--like bisexuality. There's very little prison rape or intimidation; this isn't Oz. Instead it's more about the culture that develops inside prisons, the strange friendships and connections, the unusual rituals and desires that surface.

I included the quotation above because I think it's a good sample of the writing in this book, which is very good. The characters are interesting and some of the episodes very clever--my favorite is the episode in which Farragut's lover, a man named Jody, escapes from the prison by arranging to buy a red robe from the outside and posing as a visiting priest when a Catholic Cardinal comes to speak at Falconer, and then leaving with the Cardinal's entourage on a helicopter. But as a whole Falconer seems somewhat lacking, and slight at around 200 pages, as if the book were a vignette of life in prison instead of a comprehensive study of it. (Spoiler) It seems like Farragut barely gets in prison before he escapes. Maybe if the book were longer, or more focused, it would have been more satisfying.


Carlton said...

I almost bought this book the other day.
By the way, you are on pace to crush 50 books. And by doing so you are making us all feel/look bad. Good way to lose friends.

Nihil Novum said...

This book probably should have been about birds.

Christopher said...

I have seven books left and way more than that to read for school this semester.

Alyson said...

Chris doesn't actually have any friends. You don't have to pretend, Carlton -- he already knows.

Christopher said...