A lovely, lovely story. Neddy Merrill, a resident of a wealthy neighbourhood, works out that he can make the distance from his friend’s house, back to his own house, by swimming from one neighbour’s pool, hopping out, climbing the fence and swimming in the next pool. By doing this all the way, he can effectively swim the distance to his home.
As he goes though a strange shift seems to take place. When he left his friend’s house, it was clearly summer, but a storm comes in, and the air starts getting cold. When he finishes his swim it has become winter, and Neddy is not sure how long ago things happened.
Look, I can’t describe adequately how good this story is. What I can do though, is say that this is available from the New Yorker fiction podcast (available free on itunes.) Anne Enright (herself a short story writer) discusses Cheever with the current New Yorker fiction editor, Deborah Triesman before she reads the story, in its entirety, out aloud. Make sure you listen after the reading as well, as further discussion takes place. I think if you look up the story on Wikipedia, as well, there is a link to the full text of the story there.
The Swimmer has been described as being both naturalistic and surreal at the same time. The conversations, Neddy has with any neighbour who happens to be home, present ordinary (though wealthy) people, yet as Neddy carries on, the edges of reality start to blur slightly, he can’t seem to remember that an old friend of his had a major operation, and that he himself, might be in trouble.
I was planning to carry on my Australia bent, but this story sort of slipped in and interrupted it. I can’t stop thinking about it, although I’m not sure what techniques I can take away from it. If the mix of naturalism and surrealism wasn’t perfectly pulled off, it would seem silly, and any editor would reject it offhand.