How Come No One Celebrates My Alcoholism Like John Cheever's?Commentary • people • Opinion • drinking • ISSUE 44•30 • Jul 23, 2008 By Rich Englewood You know, seminal American author John Cheever and I have a lot in common. He needed to drink a fifth of scotch before he had the courage to utter a word to another human being, and so do I. Much like Cheever, I'm completely blotto by 10 a.m. because of a deep, withering fear that my family will eventually discover my bisexuality. And, to top it all off, we were both born in Wollaston, Massachusetts, if you can believe it! But just because he's one of history's finest short story writers, Cheever's epic benders are considered delightful, whereas I've just got a "serious problem with alcohol."What a bunch of horseshit.You wouldn't believe some of the outlandish and totally inappropriate things my drunkenness has caused me to do. Dark, crazy stuff. But guess what? I didn't write Falconer, so I'm a disgrace to everyone who loves me. It's discriminatory. Cheever abandons his wife and children for months at a time to drink himself near to death, and he's discussed joyfully in college lit courses. I do the same exact thing, and I'm denied visitation rights. Well excuse me for not examining the duality of human nature in just a few short pages of effortless prose.No one is as dismissive, callous, and downright cruel to his wife as I am. Just like Cheever, I put the blame for all of my self-loathing and paranoia squarely on her, and I drive her to the brink of insanity with my suicidal imbibing. Guess I should have scrawled out some delicately measured symbolism about the female desire for inner rebirth, and maybe I would have gotten the Pulitzer Prize instead of court-ordered counseling. And of course, everyone was perfectly tickled when our dear national treasure John Cheever would say things to his son like, "Are you completely without imagination and initiative?" and "You've always been a disappointment as a son." Yep. That's all chalked up to his crisp, witty intellect. But if I so much as call Rich, Jr. a no-good untalented leech even once at a family gathering, it's reviled as unforgivable cruelty and abusive parenting.Is it too much to ask for a little recognition? I keep drinking and drinking and I'm no closer to being heralded as the greatest voice of my generation. There have been dozens of times when I've ended up drunk and nude, too incapacitated to clothe myself; but did I have a friend like John Updike there to help me clean up the vomit? Hell, no. Remember, I didn't pen "The Swimmer," so John Updike wouldn't help me for shit.I'll bet John motherfucking Updike doesn't even know who I am.If Cheever is any guide, then my unchecked dipsomania should be earning me unparalleled praise by now. But America has room for only one lovable nihilistic alcoholic, so I'll always get the shit end of the stick. Take the time I went to visit my friend Charlie in Iowa, for instance. As usual, I promptly got three sheets to the wind, my uncontrollable desire for male sexual contact got the better of me, and I repeatedly tried to shove my tongue down Charlie's throat. Cheever pulls the exact same gag on Fred Exley, everyone's all, "that's our Johnny-boy, the poor tortured genius! Let's get him off to bed." But Charlie was not inclined to give me the same benefit of the doubt. No sir. For me, it's a punch in the mouth and then off to the drunk tank to dry out for the night. Jesus Christ, Charlie, sorry I didn't win the fucking Guggenheim Fellowship based largely on the strength of only two short stories!I guess I'll have to make real sure to get a glowing review in the New York Times before I try to pull something like that again.You know, I might actually be an even better drunk than Cheever ever was. Did Cheever ever wrestle a dog at his daughter's birthday? Not according to my research. Did Cheever ever drive 30 miles home from a party before realizing he had left his wife behind? Sorry, but that was me again. And also Raymond Carver. If anything, my superior narcissistic, drunken antics should be given at least as much credit than any of Cheever's stunts. In our society, however, you apparently have to be "the Chekhov of the suburbs" before those types of colossally thoughtless hijinks hold any type of cachet.I'm just as drunk, surly, and monstrously uncaring as Charles Bukowski, Kingsley Amis, Joyce, or Faulkner ever were, but you'll never hear respected professors exchanging wry anecdotes about my plastered rampages. I'd like to blow my head off with a shotgun right now, but I'd better sit down and crank out a few bullshit stories about Spain first. Then maybe people will fondly remember my abusive, destructive gin-soaked escapades.