Wednesday (Summer, 1939)
The New Yorker turned down a story; which makes the morning look hot, dull and oppressive. I did and typed the revisions of the two Collier's stories yesterday and I guess I'll devote the rest of the week to Lobrano. I worked for an hour in the garden late yesterday afternoon and went down to dinner without a drink. Very dull . . .
People are still intimidated by the atmosphere of the house and the experience of being thrown in with twenty total strangers. The conversation over coffee was conducted in squeaks and grunts. Someone went into the music room and played the sacre du p. A playwright sat on a hornet and got nipped in the rump. One by one they went up to their rooms and sat there with the doors ajar, twiddling their thumbs. At ten o'clock the house was dark. This, of course, is just the lull before the storm and unlike anything that ever happened outside the gates.
At breakfast a number name Ekstrand turned to Porter and asked: What do you do? Are you a writer or what? Porter, dressed in white and smelling faintly of eau de cologne, said why yes, I write. What do you write? Ekstrand asks, leering. Oh, not very much, Porter says, very little really, almost nothing. I mean do you write books or what, Ekstrand asks leering. I've written two books, Porter said sweetly. Oh, Ekstrand said. Porter is wonderful. And while it's none of my business, I can't think of a better place for her particular powers of observation. These bleak and sensitive faces, the ugly house, should be her world.
It looks like rain. All the birds are gabbling. Flannery Lewis is an amiable guy with red eyes. Nathan and Carole are taking an apartment in Saratoga. They seem very happily married and this is a new part for Nathan. She's a good girl. I just heard joan greeting a new arrival under my window. he looks like a poet; tortoise-shell glasses, black suit, blue shirt and tie. A spider who has fixed a web in the wood-box just caught a fly.
from The Letters of John Cheever, edited by Benjamin Cheever
(Porter btw is Katherine Anne Porter and Lobrano is Gus Lobrano, fiction editor at The New Yorker)