That Parisian Picnic with Grey Goose’s Le Grand Fizz

Recently at Grey Goose’s beautiful Sunset Soirée, Novella had a chance to meet Chef Justin Kent, previously of Alain Passard’s 3-Michelin starred L’Arpègeand chat about French cuisine and its often overlooked adherence to simplicity and the quality of French produce. But more importantly and — and this is no jab at the chef’s personality — more memorably, we had a chance to eat his food. And I must say that Chef Kent’s Parisian picnic-style dishes were a testimony to Grey Goose’s ability to create and spot simple elegance and tastefulness. “Grey Goose approached me because the concept of what I do — farm-to-table — is much in line with their philosophy of field-to-bottle. I wanted to [make pairings] that touch on some of the key notes of Grey Goose and its terroir,” he said. Though those prone to hyperbole might suggest that the pairing of Grey Goose Le Grand Fizz — with which everyone was eventually awash — and Chef Kent’s farm salad and poulet au moutarde was indeed the culinary equivalent of being taken on a nice ride through France’s Picardy region in a 1950 Citroen 2cv — where Grey Goose’s wheat come from —, I myself will go only so far to say that the pairing was a form of alchemy in which scenes of Paris became food and drink.

Luckily for those of us who cannot make it to Paris or Picardy anytime soon, Grey Goose and Chef Kent were kind enough to share their recipes with us. Below are your gateway to effervescent Paris and Picardy and their French effervescence (with some personal notes from yours truly).

Grey Goose Le Grand Fizz

  • 1 & 1/2 parts Grey Goose vodka
  • 1 part St-Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 2 parts chilled soda water
  • 1/2 freshly squeezed lime juice (or approximately 2 wedges)

To switch things up a bit, maintain the ratios and replace Grey Goose with Grey Good L’Orange (or Le Citron) and the lime juice with freshly squeezed orange juice (or lemon juice). You can also try it with Grey Goose Cherry Noir — just replace the lime juice with lemon. The only rule here is to keep things simple. Use good quality ice — the clearer the better — and always use a jigger and let Grey Goose do its thing.

  1. Build ice into an oversized cabernet wine glass. More ice than you initially think seem appropriate.
  2. Add Grey Goose vodka and lime juice and top with St-Germain and soda water (in that order).
  3. Garnish with fresh lime wedges and a swanky Grey Goose stirrer if you have one.

Farm Salad with Goat Cheese & Champagne Vinaigrette

  • 1 fennel bulb (halved and cored)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 small Chioggia beet (blanched and peeled)
  • 3 large radishes
  • 1 endive
  • 1 granny smith apple (sliced)
  • 80g arugula
  • 1 tablespoon of tarragon leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of dill
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chives (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon champagne wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 85g fresh goat cheese (crumbled)
  • This recipe makes 4 servings

The Chioggia beet is a variety straight out of the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s. The candy pink and white striped beet is sweeter than the usual variety and does not bleed as much, which is great since red beets may very well overwhelm the rest of the salad with its colors. But if Chioggia is not available at your nearby farmers’ market or grocery store, you can of course replace it with a regular old beet. Or if you want the bright colors, try using watermelon radishes — just make sure to use a little less of the other radishes. Or, do like I did and take it out entirely. Nobody will notice if you don’t tell a soul. It’ll be your little secret that will tickle you when the guests get on your nerves, like, “Little did they know…” Do Mr. Burns’s evil fingers and move onto the other vegetables. Finally, near the end of the summer, try switching red radishes with black ones. They are more pungent and a bit spicier and the charcoal skin adds great color to the salad.

  1. Blanch the beets in simmering water with the skin on until easily able to be pierced with a knife.
  2. Let the beets cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin of the beets with your hands. It should slide off.
  3. Using a mandolin, thinly slice the fennel, carrot, beet, and radishes and transfer to a large bowl. Add the endive, arugula, tarragon, dill, parsley, and chives.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the champagne vinegar with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the dressing and half of the goat cheese, and toss gently.
  5. Transfer the salad to plates and garnish with the remaining goat cheese.

Poulet au Moutarde 

 

  • 10 chicken thighs (skin on, deboned)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup cream
  • 150g grain mustard
  • 150g lardons
  • 1/2 banana shallot (diced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • Fresh parsley (chopped for garnish)
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)
  • This recipe makes 5 servings

Use a thick bottomed pan. Cast iron skillet works well here. Some suggest oven roasting the chicken in the oven, but it’s hot in the summer and who has time for that. Poulet au moutarde (mustard chicken doesn’t sound as appetizing for some reason — the French really know how to make everything chic) is a classic and even if everything doesn’t go 100% right, it’s hard to muck up. Use good chicken (organic, kosher, air-chilled, because we are about that good life), good grain mustard (that Grey Poupon, though Canadian brand, Kozlik’s is also very good), and fresh vegetables, and you’re set. Because I’m a sucker for all things pickled, I like the poulet au moutarde avec pickled slaw. Smitten Kitchen has a great and easy recipe and you can get it here. Finally, though this may not really be that haute-cuisine in spirit, always have a loaf of sourdough or a baguette to soak up the sauce.

  1. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
  2. In a pan on medium-high heat, sear the chicken thighs, skin side down in oil until crisp and golden brown. Flip and sear on the other side until lightly caramelized.
  3. Remove the chicken thighs from the pan and set aside on a plate.
  4. Add lardons to the pan and cook until crisp.
  5. Add shallots to the pan and cook until translucent.
  6. Add the grain mustard and stir for 30 seconds being careful not to let it burn.
  7. Deglaze the pan with white win, bring to a simmer and reduce by half.
  8. Add cream and bring to a simmer.
  9. Add the smoked paprika.
  10. Place the chicken thighs back in the sauce and cook on medium to medium-low heat, covered, until fork tender.
  11. Remove from the sauce and place on to the plate to serve.
  12. Spoon sauce over the top of the chicken and garnish with chopped parsley.

Riz au Lait with Caramel Beurre Salé

  • 1 liter whole milk
  • 200g risotto rice (carnaroli is best but arborio will do)
  • 200g sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 200g heavy cream
  • 500g sugar (for the caramel beurre salé)
  • 400g heavy cream (for the caramel beurre salé)
  • 125g salted butter (for the caramel beurre salé)
  • This recipe makes 6~8 servings

Riz au lait is rice pudding. More or less. But instead of chocolate or cinnamon powder, here we have the caramel beurre salé, a fancier accoutrement to be sure. But, lucky for us, not that much more difficult nor time consuming! I recommend the carnaroli instead of the arborio because it is starchier and will give you a creamier result. I’m used to adding a bit of nutmeg to my rice pudding, and I’m sure it won’t harm the recipe here. In fact, I believe that the nutmeg may go very well with Grey Goose Espresso Martini.

  1. Bring milk, rice, and sugar to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes until the rice is cooked through.
  2. Add lemon zest and allow mixture to cool.
  3. Whip heavy cream and fold into the riz au lait, set aside.
  4. To make the caramel sauce, heat cream so that it is warm, just before simmering and set aside.
  5. In a small pot, caramelize sugar to a med-dark amber color.
  6. Slowly add in the cream to the caramel, whisking consistently, then remove from the heat once well blended.
  7. Add butter and stir well.
  8. To serve, pour cooled riz au lait into individual sized ramekins and top with caramel sauce.

Grey Goose Espresso Martini 

  • 1 &1/2 parts Grey Goose Vodka
  • 1 part single origin espresso
  • 3/4 parts premium coffee liqueur
  • Good chocolate

This is the finisher. Your guests had their salad and chicken and they’re just digging into the rich riz au lait, thinking something along the lines of I’m dead, and you come out with this concoction of smooth blow of elegance and power.This delicious cocktail wakes up the drinker and makes them happy at the same time. What more can one ask? Maybe a take-out box if there’s any of that salad left. But otherwise, nothing.

  1. Shake hard and long.
  2. Double strain and garnish with grated chocolate.

There you are, folks, the solution to your summer lunch, dinner, and picnic menu problem. Don’t mind the beautiful photo of the rock by the beach with perfectly photogenic charcuterie, cheese, and roast chicken, and absurd ratio between baguette and other foods. I put it there because it’s pretty and maybe it will inspire you to seek out a bit of the French-picnic chic this summer. When preparing the food seem a bit daunting, remember the perfect wood picnic basket. That the Grey Goose is the first on the list is by no means an accident — it’s meant to enliven and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul as you spend the long summer day out in the sun. Keep the food and drinks simple, spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your friends and family. 

Something in the Air: The Cinema of Olivier Assayas at TIFF

On June 9th, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott of the New York Times published ‘The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century,‘ a list of films that are “destined to be the classics of the future.” Because I read almost every review the two write, I went through the list and noted down films I haven’t seen that I’d like to see now that they’re meant for even more greatness. A few hours later, the marketing team at TIFF reached out with news of a new Summer-long complete retrospective — the first in 15 years — of the French master, Olivier Assayas whose 2008 film, Summer Hours, graced number #9 on NYT’s list and on top of my to-watch list. What are the chances!

Not all coincidences, it is said, are interesting. Considering that Assayas has long been synonymous with post-1968 generation of French cinema that deal with adolescence, political dissent, terrorism, and globalization, and that Summer Hours won numerous critics’ award around the world, perhaps this particular coincidence falls into the not very interesting category. Yet, it is, nevertheless, a fortuitous one, as I now have the chance to spread the news on TIFF’s Something in the Air: The Cinema of Olivier Assayas.

Scene from ‘Summer Hours’

Olivier Assays was a film-critic for France’s Cahiers du cinémathe prominent film magazine founded by André Bazin, before he became a director. Though he worked both as a director and screenwriter for numerous short and feature-length films alongside film giants like André Téchiné starting in 1978, Cold Waterreleased in 1994, is considered to be his breakthrough film as it was screened at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. Assayas has since established himself as a distinguished voice among contemporary filmmakers.

Assayas’s oeuvre is marked by the variety of genres. His 1996 satire Irma Vep about an actress (Maggie Cheung) and a failing director who wants to recreate Louis Feuillade’s 1915 classic Les Vampires is a strange and fascinating homage to the filmmaker and Hong Kong cinema. Sentimental Destinies (2000) is a costume drama set in the earl 20th centuries, concerning a Protestant minister. And with Demonlover (2002) and Boarding Gate (2007), Assayays forayed into noir and thriller. More recently, with Carlos (2010), Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), and Personal Shopper (2016), which won the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Assayas has become a globetrotter. With each genre, however, it is easy to see Assayas’s search for his vision. Encompassing his oeuvre is his rumination on films, film history, and issues of identity in the face of larger disorienting cultural, economic, and political forces.

Kristen Stewart as Maureen Cartwright in ‘Persona Shopper’

Summer Hours is interesting in that, for many who’ve come to know Assayas through Carlos and Personal Shopper, it offers a quieter and lyrical side of his oeuvre. The film begins with the 75th birthday of Helene (Édith Scob). Her three children, Frederic (Charles Berling), Adrienne (Juliette Binoche), and Jeremie (Jérémie Renier) gather in Helene’s home outside Paris to celebrate. Soon, Helene dies and leaves the house and her all-important art-nouveau furniture along with her inheritance from her famous artist uncle to her children. What ensues is a series of scenes and dealings with practical matters in which what holds a family together becomes increasingly vague; what was once thought to be a common ground — the house, both literally and figuratively — becomes a point of tension as money, emotions, and personal histories come into play. The center, however contentious and insufficient it had been prior to Helene’s death, does not hold once she is gone. Jeremie moves permanently to Shanghai and Adrienne to New York. Frederic, the only one left in France, struggles to realign himself as the new, albeit reluctant, center of his family of four.

Just next to the adult world of lawyers and contracts, Helene’s grandchildren lead, mostly unseen, entirely different lives. Shown Corot’s works nonchalantly hanging in his grandmother’s house, Frederic’s eldest son responds, “Well, it’s another era.” When Frederic is in the middle of closing a deal with regards to Helene’s furniture, his daughter, Sylvie, is caught shoplifting. That the film ends not in the adult world but with the children speaks to Assayas’s brilliance and vision. The movie that began with Helene and the art or artifacts of her life turns to one concerned with the disorder inherent in a family and becomes one about generations and youth, continuity and the lack thereof in families, cultures, and societies.

As with all great themes in film, family and adolescence and identity are materials that are visited without every really exhausting them. And Assayas’s continually revisits them from unexpected avenues.

Édith Scob as Hélène Berthier in ‘Summer Hours’

As part of TIFF’s ‘Something in the Air: The Cinema of Olivier Assayas,’ Assayas will make four in-person appearances to introduce four of his films: Cold Water, Clean, Le Diable Probablement, and Le Pélican. It is also a chance to see 35mm prints of many of his films, including Summer Hours, Clouds of Sils Maria, and Something in the Air. Finally, it is also a chance to see HHH — Portrait de Hou Hsiao-hsienAssayas’s documentary of the great Taiwanese director (A Time to Live and a Time to Die by Hou Hsiao-hsien is also a part of the retrospective). The retrospective begins on June 22nd and runs through August 20th.

Olivier Assayas with Hou Hsiao-hsien

You can find more information on the retrospective and its schedule here. And continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Trading Places — Ripped Denim and Navy Cardigan

Of many idioms in the English language, ‘to be comfortable in one’s own skin’ is one of my favorites because it seems to me to express a certain kind of ideal: to be confident enough to be placed anywhere with anyone, exist without the limits of comfort zones. I’m not sure if anyone lives a life like that — maybe Jonathan Goldsmith does —and I certainly try to stay within the boundaries of my comfort zones. Routines are key to this feat; go to the same coffee shop, sit at the same spot, order the same drink; make, of small things in one’s daily life, rituals and repeat them. Or, visit the same shops, wear the same clothes in blacks and whites, and always button the button-up shirt all the way up.

In many ways, we are bound by what we’ve become comfortable with. And it’s difficult to ever really confront them since we’re also bound by the mechanisms of our daily lives and since not all of us can have an Eat, Pray, Love soul searching cruise down the inner-self time off from it. So at Novella, we thought that changing outfits, getting into something you’re not really used to, is a good and simple way to break free from our routines.

Trading Places is our way of trying to see ourselves outside of our usual selves. That our team’s outfits range from flowy flower patterned blouses, classic oxford button downs, and head to toe black to embroidered band denim jackets, sheer polka dot dresses, and short-sleeve jumpsuits make this prison break more exciting. For our first installment, Chris, our fashion editor, and I partnered up to kick each other out of our respective comfort zones.

Daytime Outfit

Hoon: The Metalica tank top was beyond comfortable. I don’t think I’ve ever worn anything that so coyly covered and uncovered my nipples every time I lifted my arms. The breeze, since it was a hot day, was nice and cool and I adjusted well to life at this temperature. Next, I put on the denim shorts. My left foot got caught in one of the artfully ripped areas and for a second it seemed as though it might rip entirely and leave me with no choice but to lead a criminal life of damaging, and absolutely refusing to pay for, H&M shorts. Once on, the shorts let in a lot of air and was not as tight as I had originally anticipated or as Chris had warned, which was a relief. Then I put on the hoodie, which was cut in a way that the front ends of it veered away from my body. This, also, was a new sensation. It was possibly the most daring outerwear I’ve ever worn. I think that had I been wearing my usual pair of long black pants, I might not have felt too out of place in this outfit Chris picked out for me. Something about the ripped denim, as absurd as it is, was entirely contrary to the way I picture myself.

Chris: Although this may seem like a simple white shirt and casual navy blue pants, this was so far out of my comfort zone that it’s almost haunting to see these pictures as I write this. I’ve never been the type of person to opt for what others would consider “appropriate” and “tame” clothing. My personal style, has above all else, remained extremely casual and undeniably very me. So the thought of myself (sorry Hoon) moving over to the dark side of “grown up” dressing was really a step away from anything I would ever do in my personal life. There is one thing that I think I really enjoy about this outfit; the pants. Now I can undoubtedly do without the white button up shirt, but the pants are truly something I could see myself wearing and making my own. Not only were they extremely comfortable, moving with my body rather than against it, they came with andextremely handy and unexpected draw string waist, which would allow me to tighten and loosen my pants as the occasion calls for. Congratulations Hoon, you’ve made me realize that Uniqlo has comfy pants. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

Nighttime Outfit

Hoon: You can’t really see it in the photo but the ripped areas of this particular pair of jeans from Zara are curiously patched with various patterns, the most disconcerting of them all the two leopard prints. The jeans were tight but wearable, which seemed to me to be cruel in that they’re meant to be exactly that: tight and just a snippet short of being unbearable. I fumbled for a while to get them off and, to be honest, I don’t think Chris would really wear this particular pair himself. Chris and I both liked the green, white, and yellow shirt with daisies on them. It has splashes of brightness but was toned down by the dark green, which would make it, were I to go down that route, the gateway shirt to more colourful shirts. The light oversized denim jacket though you can’t see it in this photo, had roses embroidered in the back. But aside from the oversized aspect, once I put it on, I realized that it isn’t too far from something I’d venture to try on by myself if the mood were to strike.

Chris: Here’s the thing. Hoon is one of the lucky few on this beautiful blue planet that can pull off the studious Ivy League valedictorian look and not make it look like the constricting uniform of the ruling patriarchy. I, on the other hand, manage to make this J.Crew ensemble look like a failed attempt at making an aggressive Yale Skull & Bones look approachable and friendly. There’s something about this navy cardigan and grey-slack-dress shirt combo that that looks menacing. It looks predatory. Like a republican who’s smelled the blood of a  lower middle class citizen and is looking for nothing less than to pounce on his unsuspecting victim and rid them of their life force through heavy taxation and a higher cost of living. But if I do look to the bright side, the one thing I may consider wearing out of all three items would have to be the cardigan, just as long as I can have it oversized and riddled with holes and tears.

Final Thoughts

Hoon: The exercise was fun. I noticed how the uneasiness I felt while Chris picked out the outfits would soon disappear and seem disproportionate in retrospect. Goes to show that I egregiously associate certain aspects of myself with the types of clothes I choose to wear. Though I am still pretty certain that I’d not wear the ripped denim of my own accord, I might very well go back to that H&M for that tank top.

Chris: I think my favourite part of this little activity was watching Hoon’s eyes widen and face shoot white as I went through rack after rack, pulling out options of what I was willing to put him in. In retrospect, I did  manage to learn something interesting about how two different people view each other and how we should accept everyone for what makes them different and unique. Props goes to Hoon though. Our outing has inspired me to buy both outfits that I put Hoon in.

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Summer Wines Under $20

If there is anything better than a good bottle of wine, it’s certainly a good bottle of wine that doesn’t break the bank. You certainly don’t need to be utilitarian toward the nectar to leave LCBO with a few bottles in hand and money left in your pocket for cheese, charcuterie, and other goods for an afternoon in a park or a balcony. Here is a list of wines we’re drinking this summer under $20 not just because we’re on budget but also because we know what’s good for us.

Anselmi San Vincenzo — $16.95

Made with Garganega grapes, those familiar with Soave will find that Anselmi San Vincenzo is a good alternative with distinct aromas of lavender and tropical fruits. The dry white wine has a touch of sweetness that goes well with light meals and it’s surprisingly great with raw dishes, like sushi or ceviché.

Roscato Rosso Igt Provincia Di Pavia — $14.95

I had a chance to try Roscato Rosso at iYellow Wine Cave the other day and, though I’m not usually a fan of sweeter wines, it won me over completely with its ruby color, berry flavors, and tantalizing bubbles, which it gets from a secondary fermentation process. It’s best chilled and, though I haven’t tried this myself yet, I imagine its fruity notes will be a fantastic addition to an afternoon sangria.

Clos de Beauregard Vieilles Vignes Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2015 — $16.95

This extra dry bottle is nothing short of a great muscadet. It has a unique minerality and saltiness in addition to notes of apples that earned it 75th place in the 2016 Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Best Buys, which may seem like a small thing until one considers how many bottles of wine are produced in the world each year (something like 31 billion). If you want to expand your white wine palette, this is the place to start.

Kuhlmann-Platz Riesling 2014 — $16.95

This Alsatian riesling is from Cave Vinicole de Hunawihr, a cooperative dating back to 1958, which has since earned a fine reputation for its quality. This particular bottle has notes of honey and fresh fruits, which would be perfect to drink in an afternoon while waiting for things to happen or slouching toward the dinner table.

Château Lamartine Prestige du Malbec 2013 — $19.95

Cahor is a lesser known region in France — it was ravaged by frost and politics alike, which left its economy and reputation in the ditch for a while — but its history dates back to the Ancient Romans. Its wines are known as black wine for their inky color and depth. This particular bottle is a good representation of Cahor’s malbec wines. It is tannic and smoky but also layered with black fruits. This rich wine was also wood aged, which gives it an extra layer of depth.

Novel Ideas: The Stories of John Cheever

John Cheever in Ossining, New York, 1976

John Cheever has not had a good posthumous career. He is not widely read today nor is he regularly included in school curriculums where reputations live and grow; the setting of Cheever’s stories and what it’s come to represent being under general social and cultural scrutiny — and such scrutiny, anachronistic or otherwise, being generally popular —, Cheever’s stories themselves have often come under attack. ‘Cheeveresque’ has become synonymous with suburbia and middle to upper middle class and dismissed as misogynistic or just another dead white male voice. He has, somewhere along the way, become an author an English major is proud to have graduated without reading (the list may very well include some of Shakespeare’s better-known tragedies, T.S. Eliot, Kipling, etc.).

It should be noted that Fitzgerald — Cheever’s immediate predecessor — and Salinger — his contemporary —, whose primary subject was middle and upper middle class America, continue to be a part of the literary lexicon of our time. Jay Gatsby’s ascension to online bibliophiles’ points of reference and continued presence in ‘The Most Beautiful Quote…’ lists would have surprised even Fitzgerald himself, while Holden Caulfield maintains something of a cult status. Cheever the man, while alive, was not prone to scandal and notoriety as the Fitzgeralds were, or did his stories end up in a Southern School District’s list of banned books.

Cheever’s contemporary reputation, whatever remains of it, is largely shaped by Blake Bailey’s long biography published in 2009 that gives in full and lengthy detail the personal struggles of the troubled author; his daughter’s, Susan Cheever, memoir, Home Before Dark, published just two years after his death in 1984, which revealed her father’s closeted bisexuality and his lifelong struggle with alcoholism; and the posthumously published journals and letters that didn’t really paint a brighter portrait of the author but furthered the image of the man in a mire of emotional crisis and financial troubles.  Perhaps the fact that Cheever isn’t read so much today has more to do with the convergences of these factors that define the author outside of his works: mid-century America, suburbia, his bisexuality, his marital troubles, his strained relationships with his children, alcoholism.

Cover of Vintage International Edition of ‘The Stories of John Cheever’ (2000)

But there’s more to Cheever than the sum of the words written about him, as there are more to Cheever’s stories than the most immediate images of swimming pools and backyard barbecues. In them, bright images — or technicolor, as it was for Frank Perry’s 1968 adaptation of ‘The Swimmer’ — turn sour, sooner or later, and in Cheever’s mastery of the form, the souring makes perfect sense. Central to Cheever’s stories are not particularly 20th-century American notions of glamour of living fast and being peculiarly close to violence, the likes of which can be found in Fitzgerald and Hemingway alike. What lurks behind closed doors of Cheever’s well-to-do suburban houses and apartments, and in the crevices of safety and security of social status and wealth is an element of criminality, of venal sins, small in scale but outsized in moral connotations.

In ‘The Enormous Radio,’ Cheever’s 1947 breakout story in the New Yorker, Jim and Irene Westcott, “the kind of people who seem to strike that satisfactory average of income, endeavor, and respectability that is reached by the statistical reports in college alumni bulletins,” brings home a radio that transmits sounds from nearby apartments. After a series of bizarre and Kafka-like instances of eavesdropping and paranoia, Jim reveals to Irene the family’s financial crisis and, to obtain a moral high ground, reminds her of how she stole her sister’s inheritance and how she went to get an abortion as if she were “going to Nassau.”

One of Cheever’s more celebrated story, ‘The Housebreaker of Shady Hill,” begins Johnny Hake’s description of his house in an upstanding Upstate New York suburbs: “We have a nice house with a garden and a place outside for cooking meat, and on summer nights, sitting there with the kids and looking into the front of Christina’s dress as she bends over to salt the steaks, or just gazing at the lights in heaven, I am as thrilled as I am thrilled by more hardy and dangerous pursuits, and I guess this is what is meant by the pain and sweetness of life.” Johnny Hake then proceeds to tell us how he was fired from his job, lied to his wife, and resorted to stealing his neighbor’s wallet to make ends meet.

The resolution of this particular story says much about Cheever’s stories in general: Hake’s employer calls him and rehires him. That the reestablished order is tenuous and fragile at best is perhaps what makes the tranquil night of a backyard barbecue as thrilling as stealing. Or perhaps that the tranquility, the contentedness, are themselves stolen. If so, from whom or what? Or more importantly, when will they come back to get it?

In a 2012 essay in the New York Review of Books, Allan Gurganus, who studied under Cheever at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, wrote, “If [Cheever’s] fiction still throws off salt spray and blinding daylight, his company amused, intrigued, specialized in dares. He always wanted to have a good time. ‘What’ll we try for fun now, and next, and…?'” Gurganus’s account of Cheever’s company differs with others that speak to his genuine inability to maintain relationships and of his close bond with his dogs as the only close bond the author had in his life. It’s difficult, and perhaps meaningless, to attempt to understand Cheever the man three decades after his death. But as for his characters, they are indeed full of intrigue, desirous of good times, and also full of darkness, weighted by unnamed remnants from past that, even in grand company, they are alone.

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