After watching the film, THE SWIMMER, a few days ago. I decided to go back and reread the short story. The film was made by Frank Perry in 1968 from a script by his wife who often worked with him in film projects. The movie starred Burt Lancaster in a stunning performance.
THE SWIMMER is a very surreal story and it is amazing to me that the film captured that so well. Ned is a man in his late fifties who decides to traverse the eight miles to his home through suburban swimming pools. All of the pools (almost) belong to his country club set friends. In the movie, he has conversations with a lot of them, but the book only includes a few. As he moves through the country side, the season starts to change and so too how he is greeted by these friends. It is clear he has fallen from grace, from affluence, but I don't want to tell you too much because it will detract from your enjoyment or at least appreciation of the story.
If anything the story spells things out a little more than the movie. In the movie, Lancaster spends the entire 100 minutes in a swim suit. He uses his body to show you the passage of time. Is this a ghost story? Are the pools actually passages of time? You tell me.
This would be on my list of the greatest stories of the 20th century along with "A Good Man is Hard to Find," and "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" and "The Lottery" to name a few. Cheever was a master at tone, description, character. He is knocked about writing only about the upper classes but what do you do when that's the world you know. And he is certainly critical of that group in this story.