“My God, the suburbs!” John Cheever, the short-story writer who has rejoiced in the nickname “the American Chekhov,” had what can only be described as ambivalent feelings about the twentieth-century housing developments that grew up on the outskirts of major cities. He said of them that “they encircled the city’s boundaries like enemy territory and we thought of them as a loss of privacy, a cesspool of conformity, and a life of indescribable dreariness in some split-level village where the place name appeared in the New York Times only when some bored housewife blew off her head with a shotgun.”

Cheever was not wholly consistent himself. The prospect of glacial monotony did not stop the author moving to the suburbs and putting down some very firm roots both of the familial and literary kind. TIME magazine styled him “the Ovid of Ossining,” a reference to the scenic Westchester village where he lived from 1961 until his death in 1982. Admirers of Mad Men might recognize Ossining as the hometown of the ultimate suburban couple, Betty and Don Draper. This was a conscious homage; as the show’s creator Matthew Weiner has said, Cheever’s stories were a considerable influence on his writing. The show might be named for Madison Avenue, but when it comes to suburbia, “mad” is also the operative word. For a whole generation of writers trying to make sense of postwar America, the suburbs offered particularly fertile ground for “madness in the mundane” storytelling. Commingled with all that ennui, there could be sex, drink and existential messiness galore.

Back in May of 2009, in a Wall Street Journal article titled, “The End of the Affair,” the late P.J. O’Rourke wrote an encomium to cars, which the Obama-Biden administration was then just beginning its war on (as part of its still-ongoing war with many other aspects of American life), that was also at times, an encomium to the suburbs:

But cars didn’t shape our existence; cars let us escape with our lives. We’re way the heck out here in Valley Bottom Heights and Trout Antler Estates because we were at war with the cities. We fought rotten public schools, idiot municipal bureaucracies, corrupt political machines, rampant criminality and the pointy-headed busybodies. Cars gave us our dragoons and hussars, lent us speed and mobility, let us scout the terrain and probe the enemy’s lines. And thanks to our cars, when we lost the cities we weren’t forced to surrender, we were able to retreat.

And get on with our lives in relative peace and happiness. No wonder the left hates the suburbs so.