from the Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever:

For with his maturity, Moses had found in himself a taste for the grain and hair of life.

The context doesn't really help so much in understanding.

  • There must be some context. What is the subject of the book? What is the role of Moses? Is it supposed to be humorous?
    – Theresa
    Oct 12, 2014 at 0:26
  • I looked this up. It is from a critique of Cheever's work. Judging from the writer's earlier use of echt (German for genuine, real) without context, my impression is that it is just bad writing. The writer is trying to sound hip or erudite, and instead, he's just incomprehensible.
    – Theresa
    Oct 12, 2014 at 0:32
  • @Theresa: Maybe it's not exactly "great literature". But in 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Wapshot Chronicle 63rd on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.[. And OP's cited line is direct from the text, not from a critique. Oct 12, 2014 at 1:32
  • I stand Cheevered.
    – Theresa
    Oct 12, 2014 at 4:40
  • Theresa - are you saying it IS NOT from a Cheever novel, but rather, it is from (someone) writing an essay (a critique) ABOTU Cheever??
    – Fattie
    Oct 12, 2014 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


The hair and the grain are the two outermost layers of an animal hide. When a hide is tanned the hair is removed, and the grain, the irregular surface, is usually sanded and polished to eliminate imperfections.

Now take a look at Cheever's use of this as a metaphor in its context; Moses has risen very early in the morning to go fly-fishing:

He gathered in his line and made another cast, wading so deep in the pool that his crotch got wet, a blessing, he thought, hoping that the cold water would discourage his mind from ever leaving such simple pleasures, for with his maturity Moses had found in himself a taste for the grain and hair of life.

Moses' taste for the hair and grain of life is a preference for life in its simplest natural state, without being artificially "processed" by socialization.

  • 1
    Also perhaps an allusion to the sensual/tactile physicality of the simple/carefree life. Oct 12, 2014 at 1:42
  • @FumbleFingers Well, the next paragraph is about Moses spying on a nekkid woman, so you're probably right. Oct 12, 2014 at 1:48
  • All very reminiscent of Lady Chatterley's Lover - except gardener Mellors is more "earthy" than "fishy". Oct 12, 2014 at 2:11
  • Most interesting! An idiom from an age-old craft. Thank you for this cogent answer.
    – Theresa
    Oct 12, 2014 at 4:39
  • thanks, very interesting. May be a good idea to refrain from using it myself though :)
    – jacob
    Oct 12, 2014 at 8:26

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