John Cheever (Image: bluelephant, Creative Commons)

The following is not a full transcript; for full story, listen to audio.

John Cheever was sometimes called the "Chekov of the Suburbs." Cheever's characters often find themselves struggling with issues of conformity and class in American suburbia. Much like their creator himself. In this hour of "To the Best of Our Knowledge," an exploration of the life and work of writers.

Segment 1:
Blake Bailey is the author of the new biography "Cheever: A Life." He tells Steve Paulson that John Cheever wrote hundreds of short stories and kept an extensive private journal, fabricated his accent and was primarily gay despite siring three children and remaining in a long marriage. We also hear Cheever reading from "The Swimmer" and Meryl Streep reading rom "The Enormous Radio."

Segment 2:
Elizabeth Strout just won the Pulitzer Prize for her book "Olive Kitteridge." Marilynne Robinson's most recent novel, "Home," was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her previous book, "Gilead," won the Pulitzer. Both woman joined Steve Paulson before a live audience at the Wisconsin Book Festival to read from their work and talk about it. The writers discuss the appeal of small town life and their interest in religion and the question of how to live a good life.

Segment 3:
An excerpt from the "Earplay" production of Donald Barthelme's "The Photographs" sets up a conversation with Tracy Daugherty, author of "Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme." Jim Fleming asks Daugherty about Donald Barthelme, Senior, and the writer's passion for jazz. Also, Natalie Goldberg is the author of many books about writing including the classic "Writing Down the Bones." Her latest is "Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir." Goldgerg tells Anne Strainchamps why she loves the memoir genre.

"To the Best of Our Knowledge" is an audio magazine of ideas - two hours of smart, entertaining radio for people with curious minds.

More "To the Best of Our Knowledge"

Related Stories