John Cheever

John Cheever

1973 - 1974
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John Cheever and Raymond Carver at the Iowa House


Cheever remarked that he could always recognize “an alcoholic line” in a writer’s work. I’m not exactly sure what he meant by this but I think I know. When we were teaching in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the fall semester of 1973, he and I did nothing but drink. I mean we met our classes, in a manner of speaking. But the entire time we were there—we were living in this hotel they have on campus, the Iowa House—I don’t think either of us ever took the covers off our typewriters. We made trips to a liquor store twice a week in my car.

[…] He lived on the fourth floor of the hotel and I lived on the second. Our rooms were identical, right down to the same reproduction of the same painting hanging on the wall. But when we drank together, we always drank in his room. He said he was afraid to come down to drink on the second floor. He said there was always a chance of him getting mugged in the hallway!

-Raymond Carver

Simpson, Mona, and Lewis Buzbee. “Raymond Carver, The Art of Fiction No. 76.” The Paris Review, 12 June 2017,


John Cheever in the English Philosophy Building


From a letter in the University of Iowa Special Collections, revealing details about Cheever’s time teaching at Iowa:

November 27, 1973
Dear Professor Cheever:

A student in your course Seminar Problems in Modern Fiction (8W:490), which meets in room 215 EPB, has reported to this office that smoking is permitted in this course. A policy which precludes smoking in classes was recently adopted with the concurrence of Student Senate, Collegiate Associations Council, and the Faculty Council. I’m certain the student in question and perhaps others in the course would appreciate your cooperation in the effort to provide a setting free from what some regard as the objectionable presence of cigarette and other smoke.

Sincerely yours,

Richard E. Gibson


University of Iowa Main Library, Special Collections


John Cheever’s Class at the Workshop

Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

In one class at Iowa in the early 70’s, there was T.C. Boyle, Allan Gurganus, Ron Hansen, Jane Smiley, Richard Bausch, all of them taught by John Cheever. And they couldn’t be more different in style.

Smith, Dinitia. “Director of a Noted Writers’ Workshop Is Stepping Down.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 29 Aug. 2004,


Stephen King on John Cheever and Raymond Carver

Iowa City
123 S Linn St

Until mid-1977, Raymond Carver was out of control. While teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he and John Cheever became drinking buddies. “He and I did nothing but drink,” Carver said of the fall semester of 1973. “I don’t think either of us ever took the covers off our typewriters.” Because Cheever had no car, Carver provided transportation on their twice-weekly booze runs. They liked to arrive at the liquor store just as the clerk was unlocking for the day. Cheever noted in his journal that Carver was “a very kind man.” He was also an irresponsible boozehound who habitually ran out on the check in restaurants, even though he must have known it was the waitress who had to pay the bill for such dine-and-dash customers. His wife, after all, often waited tables to support him.

– Stephen King

King, Stephen. “Raymond Carver’s Life and Stories.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2009,

John William Cheever (1912 – 1982) was an American novelist and short story writer. In the fall of 1973, Cheever taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where his students included T. C. Boyle, Allan Gurganus, and Jane Smiley.


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