A boy’s reunion with his father takes an unexpected turn.
John Cheever’s “Reunion” was published in The New Yorker in 1962. Cheever was an American novelist and was best known for his short stories. In 2007, The New Yorker posted a fiction podcast of “Reunion” read by novelist Richard Ford. The short story is first-person narration from a young man Charlie’s perspective and takes place in New York. The story begins with Charlie making an appointment to meet with his father for lunch. Charlie meets his father at Grand Central Station and they walk to a restaurant nearby when his father displays rude behaviour by clapping and yelling arrogantly at the waiter. During their time together, Charlie and his father go to four different restaurants before Charlie gets fed up and must return to the train station. “Reunion” demonstrates a destructive relationship between Charlie and his father and Richard Ford’s reading unfolds the dynamic relationship perfectly.
The unknown information about the relationship between Charlie and his father create curiosity for the reader. For example, “The last time I saw my father” (Cheever), said twice by Charlie, is a flash forward device that predicts that Charlie will never see his father again. However, Charlie communicates his desire to spend time with his father when he sees him and says, “I wished that we could have been photographed”, but his opinion quickly changes after he observers his father’s behavior, thus Charlie does not get the “reunion” he was looking forward too. Also, there are examples of gaps in Charlie’s knowledge of his father which further complicate their relationship. For example, Charlie says, “he was a stranger to me”, although it has only been three years since he has seen his father.
The different tones Ford speaks in helps the listener in creating an atmosphere and setting for the short story. Ford has a mature voice yet he captures the youthfulness of Charlie’s young voice and the aggression in the father’s voice perfectly. For example, Ford yells, “Kellner! Garçon! Carneiere! You!” (Cheever, Richard Ford reads Reunion) in an arrogant tone to validate the father’s obnoxiousness. In addition, Richard narrates the waiters voices in a kind and calm tone and narrates the father’s voice in an angry pitch to emphasize the insulting comments he makes to the waiter. As Charlie and his father go to four restaurants, his father consumes four alcoholic drinks and as the podcast continues, Richard’s vocal intensity increases to portray the effect of the father’s alcohol consumption.
Fiction podcasts provide readers a modern take and a different perspective on short stories. The temporal gaps in the podcast exhibit that there is a complicated narration occurring as Charlie narrates in the present and in the future. This device is effective because it allows the reader to set tone of the story and make connections with the missing knowledge. Cheever has given specific information about Charlie’s relationship with his father and has excluded main points about the relationship. Therefore, this gives the reader to make the connections with the little information given.
Cheever, John. Reunion. New York: The New Yorker Magazine, 1962. Short Story.
“Richard Ford reads Reunion.” The New Yorker Fiction Podcast from Conde Nast Publications, 2007. http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/fiction/reunions.