File this one under “Everything going according to plan.”
Less than a month after the publication of a hefty, definitive biography of John Cheever sparked widespread reconsiderations of the late author’s work, the flagship imprint of Simon & Schuster has confirmed plans to reissue a long out-of-print letters collection edited by Cheever’s son Ben that was originally published in 1988.
The biography, written by Blake Bailey and published with much fanfare by Knopf, was accompanied by a two-tome Library of America edition of Cheever’s stories and novels; together, the two publications added up to a deliberate, carefully choreographed full-court press intended to establish Cheever as a giant of postwar American fiction on the level of Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. As Mr. Bailey told us in a recent interview, “I hope it will be contagious.”
Simon & Schuster spokeswoman Victoria Meyer said in an email that the new edition of the letters collection will be published in October as a trade paperback, and will not include any material that was not already in the original book. She described the volume as “an intimate self-portrait of the literary icon, as revealed through his prolific correspondence with famous writers, his wife, children, friends, and lovers,” and noted that it includes an “elegiac but never idealistic” introduction written by Ben Cheever as well as contextual “explanatory notes” peppered throughout.
Ms. Meyer said that Simon & Schuster publisher David Rosenthal had ordered the reissue “because of the renewed interest in Cheever’s life.”
Mr. Bailey greeted the news happily yesterday, saying in an email that he is “thrilled to hear” about it.
Could there be more Cheever reissues coming in the wake of Mr. Bailey’s biography? Might HarperCollins, which owns the rights to Cheever’s first two novels, The Wapshot Chronicle and The Wapshot Scandal, and published handsome paperback editions of both in 2003, be moved to get in on the action?
Not at the moment, said Alberto Rojas, a spokesman for HC’s paperback operation, Harper Perennial.
“We’ll ask stores to take in our stock and display it with the new titles,” Mr. Rojas told The Observer, but there are no plans to do anything more.