In this brilliant late-career collection, John Updike revisits many of the locales of his early fiction: the small-town Pennsylvania of Olinger Stories, the sandstone farmhouse of Of the Farm, the exurban New England of Couples and Marry Me, and Henry Bech's Manhattan of artistic ambition and taunting glamour. To a dozen short stories spanning the American Century, the author has added a novella-length coda to his quartet of novels about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. Several strands of the Rabbit saga come together here as, during the fall and winter holidays of 1999, Harry's survivors fitfully entertain his memory while pursuing their own happiness up to the edge of a new millennium. Love makes Updike's fictional world go round--married love, filial love, feathery licks of erotic love, and love for the domestic particulars of Middle American life.s suspected that Updike would try to pull one more Rabbit out of his hat. Now, some 10 years after the death of everybody's favorite Updike character, Updike has done just that, and with great success. . . . 'Rabbit Remembered' ranks with his best work."-The Star-Ledger"GLIMMERING . . . SEDUCTIVE . . . JOHN UPDIKE HITS HIS STRIDE"-Entertainment WeeklyFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
In 1956 John Updike wrote a short story about newly-weds Joan and Richard Maple. Over the next two decades he returned to this couple again and again, tracking their years together as they raise children and deal with the heartbreak of infidelity and estrangement. Gathered here for the first time in hardcover - and with the addition of a later story, 'Grandparenting', that shows us the Maples after their divorce - THE MAPLES STORIES offers a nuanced portrait of two deeply flawed but moving characters and their entwined lives. 'Though the Maples stories trace the decline and fall of a marriage, they also illumine a history in many ways happy, of growing children and a million mundane moments shared. That a marriage ends is less than ideal; but all things end under heaven, and if temporality is held to be invalidating, then nothing really succeeds. The moral of these stories is that all blessings are mixed. '- From the Foreword by John Updike
Marry Me is subtitled "A Romance" because, in the author's words, "people don't act like that anymore." The time is 1962, and the place is a fiefdom of Camelot called Greenwood, Connecticut. Jerry Conant and Sally Mathias are in love and want to get married, though they already are married to others. A diadem of five symmetrical chapters describes the course of their affair as it flickers off and on, and as their spouses react, in a tentative late-summer atmosphere of almost-last chances. For this is, as Jerry observes, "the twilight of the old morality, and there's just enough to torment us, and not enough to hold us in."
When historian Alfred "Alf" Clayton is invited by an academic journal to record his impressions of the Gerald R. Ford Administration (1974-77), he recalls not the political events of the time but rather a turbulent period of his own sexual past. Alf's highly idiosyncratic contribution to Retrospect consists not only of reams of unbuttoned personal history but also of pages from an unpublished project of the time, a chronicle of the presidency of James Buchanan (1857-61). The alternating texts mirror each other and tell a story in counterpoint, a frequently hilarious comedy of manners contrasting the erotic etiquette and social dictions of antebellum Washington with those of late-twentieth-century southern New Hampshire. Alf's style is Nabokovian. His obsessions are vintage Updike.
In the boldly eclectic title poem of his collection, John Updike employs the meters of Dante, Spenser, Pope, Whitman, and Pound, as well as the pictographic tactics of concrete poetry, to take an inventory of his life at the end of his thirty-fifth year--at midpoint. These cantos form both a joke on the antique genre of the long poem and an attempt to write one: an earnest meditation on the mysteries of the ego, lost time, and the mundane. The remainder of the volume is a six years' harvest of light verse and incidental lyrics--poems dealing with love and death, animals and angels, places and persons, dream artifacts and the naked ape. As a writer of humorous verse Mr. Updike is alone in his generation; to serious poetry he brings the vision and warmth characteristic of his prose.
In this antic riff on Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, the Reverend Tom Marshfield, a latter-day Arthur Dimmesdale, is sent west from his Midwestern parish in sexual disgrace. At a desert retreat dedicated to rest, recreation, and spiritual renewal, this fortyish serial fornicator is required to keep a journal whose thirty-one weekly entries constitute the book you now hold in your hand. In his wonderfully overwrought style he lays bare his soul and his past--his marriage to the daughter of his ethics professor, his affair with his organist, his antipathetic conversations with his senile father and his bisexual curate, his golf scores, his poker hands, his Biblical exegeses, and his smoldering desire for the directress of the retreat, the impregnable Ms. Prynne. A testament for our times.From the Trade Paperback edition.
John Updike's fiftieth book and fifth collection of assorted prose, most of it first published in The New Yorker, brings together eight years' worth of essays, criticism, addresses, introductions, humorous feuilletons, and -- in a concluding section, "Personal Matters" -- paragraphs on himself and his work. More matter, indeed, in an age which, his introduction states, wants "real stuff -- the dirt, the poop, the nitty gritty -- and not . . . the obliquities and tenuosities of fiction." Still, the fiction writer's affectionate, shaping hand can be detected in many of these considerations. Herman Melville, Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, Dawn Powell, Henry Green, John Cheever, Vladimir Nabokov, and W. M. Spackman are among the authors extensively treated, along with such more general literary matters as the nature of evil, the philosophical content of novels, and the wreck of the Titanic. Biographies of Isaac Newton and Queen Elizabeth II, Abraham Lincoln and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Benchley and Helen Keller, are reviewed, always with a lively empathy. Two especially scholarly disquisitions array twentieth-century writing about New York City and sketch the ancient linkage between religion and literature. An illustrated section contains sharp-eyed impressions of movies, photographs, and art. Even the slightest of these pieces can twinkle.Updike is a writer for whom print is a mode of happiness: he says of his younger self, "The magazine rack at the corner drugstore beguiled me with its tough gloss," and goes on to claim, "An invitation into print, from however suspect a source, is an opportunity to make something beautiful, to discover within oneself a treasure that would otherwise have remained buried."From the Hardcover edition.
Museums and Women gathers twenty-nine short stories from the 1960s and early 1970s. It is John Updike's most various collection, a book as full of departures and surprises as the historical period that produced them. Some stories, such as the title piece, have the tone and personality of essays. Others objectify the chimeras of middle-class life, especially life in a fictional New England enclave called Tarbox. The illustrated jeux d'esprit in the section called "Other Modes" place Updike somewhere between Robert Benchley and Donald Barthelme as a toymaker in prose. Crowning the collection are five scenes from the marriage of Richard and Joan Maple, a story sequence with the narrative interest and cumulative power of a novel.
The Music School is a place of learning, in which a sheltered South Dakota boy meets his roommate at Harvard, a rebel with whom he will have a violent--and ambiguous--physical encounter; a warring married couple, Richard and Joan Maple, try and try again to find solace in sex; and Henry Bech, an unprolific American writer publicizing himself far from home, enjoys a moment of improbable, poignant, untranslatable connection with a Bulgarian poetess. In these twenty short stories, each evidence of his early mastery, John Updike brings us a world--a world of fumbling, pausing, and beginning again; a world sensitively felt and lovingly expressed; a world whose pianissimo harmonies demand new subtleties of fictional form.
"Drinking a toast to the visible world, his impending disappearance from it be damned." That's how John Updike describes one of his elderly protagonists in this, his final collection of short stories. He might have been writing about himself. In My Father's Tears, the author revisits his signature characters, places, and themes--Americans in suburbs, cities, and small towns grappling with faith and infidelity--in a gallery of portraits of his aging generation, men and women for whom making peace with the past is now paramount. The Seattle Times called My Father's Tears "a haunting collection" that "echoes the melancholy of Chekhov, the romanticism of Wordsworth and the mournful spirit of Yeats."
In this short novel, Joey Robinson, a thirty-five-year-old New Yorker, describes a visit he makes, with his second wife and eleven-year-old stepson, to the Pennsylvania farm where he grew up and where his aging mother now lives alone. For three days, a quartet of voices explores the air, making confessions, seeking alignments, quarreling, pleading, and pardoning. They are not entirely alone: ghosts (fathers, lovers, children) press upon them, as do phantoms from the near future (nurses, lawyers, land developers). Of the Farm concerns the places people choose to live their lives, and the strategies they use to stand their ground.From the Trade Paperback edition.
In John Updike's second collection of assorted prose he comes into his own as a book reviewer; most of the pieces picked up here were first published in The New Yorker in the 1960s and early '70s. If one word could sum up the young critic's approach to books and their authors it would be "generosity": "Better to praise and share," he says in his Foreword, "than to blame and ban." And so he follows his enthusiasms, which prove both deserving and infectious: Kierkegaard, Proust, Joyce, Dostoevsky, and Hamsun among the classics; Borges, Nabokov, Grass, Bellow, Cheever, and Jong among the contemporaries. Here too are meditations on Satan and cemeteries, travel essays on London and Anguilla, three very early "golf dreams," and one big interview. Picked-Up Pieces is a glittering treasury for every reader who likes life, books, wit--and John Updike.
When this classic collection of stories first appeared--in 1962, on the author's thirtieth birthday--Arthur Mizener wrote in The New York Times Book Review: "Updike is a romantic [and] like all American romantics, that is, he has an irresistible impulse to go in memory home again in order to find himself. . . . The precise recollection of his own family-love, parental and marital, is vital to him; it is the matter in which the saving truth is incarnate. . . . Pigeon Feathers is not just a book of very brilliant short stories; it is a demonstration of how the most gifted writer of his generation is coming to maturity; it shows us that Mr. Updike's fine verbal talent is no longer pirouetting, however gracefully, out of a simple delight in motion, but is beginning to serve his deepest insight."
The hero of John Updike's first novel, published when the author was twenty-six, is ninety-four-year-old John Hook, a dying man who yet refuses to be dominated. His world is a poorhouse--a county home for the aged and infirm--overseen by Stephen Conner, a righteous young man who considers it his duty to know what is best for others. The action of the novel unfolds over a single summer's day, the day of the poorhouse's annual fair, a day of escalating tensions between Conner and the rebellious Hook. Its climax is a contest between progress and tradition, benevolence and pride, reason and faith.
In this midcareer collection of twenty-three short stories, John Updike tackles such problems as separation, divorce, and remarriage, parents and children, guns and prostitution, leprosy, swooning, suffocation, and guilt. His self-seeking heroes tend to be forty; his heroines are asleep, seductive, longing, or reproachful. None of these characters is innocent, and all are looking vainly for the road back to an imagined Paradise. Pain and comedy closely coexist in this mainly domestic world of the 1970s, where life is indistinguishable from a television commercial (but what is it advertising?) and every morning's paper brings news of lost Atlantises.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Howells Medal, and the National Book Critics Circle Award In John Updike's fourth and final novel about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, the hero has acquired a Florida condo, a second grandchild, and a troubled, overworked heart. His son, Nelson, is behaving erratically; his daughter-in-law, Pru, is sending him mixed signals; and his wife, Janice, decides in midlife to return to the world of work. As, through the year of 1989, Reagan's debt-ridden, AIDS-plagued America yields to that of the first George Bush, Rabbit explores the bleak terrain of late middle age, looking for reasons to live and opportunities to make peace with a remorselessly accumulating past.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award The hero of John Updike's Rabbit, Run, ten years after the events of Rabbit Redux, has come to enjoy considerable prosperity as the chief sales representative of Springer Motors, a Toyota agency in Brewer, Pennsylvania. The time is 1979: Skylab is falling, gas lines are lengthening, and double-digit inflation coincides with a deflation of national self-confidence. Nevertheless, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom feels in good shape, ready to enjoy life at last--until his wayward son, Nelson, returns from the West, and the image of an old love pays a visit to the lot. New characters and old populate these scenes from Rabbit's middle age as he continues to pursue, in his zigzagging fashion, the rainbow of happiness.
In this sequel to Rabbit, Run, John Updike resumes the spiritual quest of his anxious Everyman, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. Ten years have passed; the impulsive former athlete has become a paunchy thirty-six-year-old conservative, and Eisenhower's becalmed America has become 1969's lurid turmoil of technology, fantasy, drugs, and violence. Rabbit is abandoned by his family, his home invaded by a runaway and a radical, his past reduced to a ruined inner landscape; still he clings to semblances of decency and responsibility, and yearns to belong and to believe.
Harry Angstrom was a star basketball player in high school and that was the best time of his life. Now in his mid-20s, his work is unfulfilling, his marriage is moribund, and he tries to find happiness with another woman. But happiness is more elusive than a medal, and Harry must continue to run--from his wife, his life, and from himself, until he reaches the end of the road and has to turn back....
As Roger Lambert tells it, he, a middle-aged professor of divinity, is buttonholed in his office by Dale Kohler, an earnest young computer scientist who believes that quantifiable evidence of God's existence is irresistibly accumulating. The theological-scientific debate that ensues, and the wicked strategies that Roger employs to disembarrass Dale of his faith, form the substance of this novel--these and the current of erotic attraction that pulls Esther, Roger's much younger wife, away from him and into Dale's bed. The novel, a majestic allegory of faith and reason, ends also as a black comedy of revenge, for this is Roger's version--Roger Chillingworth's side of the triangle described by Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter--made new for a disbelieving age.
S. is the story of Sarah P. Worth, a thoroughly modern spiritual seeker who has become enamored of a Hindu mystic called the Arhat. A native New Englander, she goes west to join his ashram in Arizona, and there struggles alongside fellow sannyasins (pilgrims) in the difficult attempt to subdue ego and achieve moksha (salvation, release from illusion). "S." details her adventures in letters and tapes dispatched to her husband, her daughter, her brother, her dentist, her hairdresser, and her psychiatrist--messages cleverly designed to keep her old world in order while she is creating for herself a new one. This is Hester Prynne's side of the triangle described by Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter; it is also a burlesque of the quest for enlightenment, and an affectionate meditation on American womanhood.From the Trade Paperback edition.
The title of John Updike's first short story collection, published when the author was twenty-seven, alludes to the old superstition that you should enter and leave a house by the same door. Thus John Nordholm, the alternately shy and brash hero of the first story here, is also the narrator of the last. Yet there is a sense in which all sixteen of these stories knock at the same door, a door that in "Dentistry and Doubt" swings open, and in "Toward Evening" remains shut. The characters are polite, nervous, diffident, as if life--or at least youth, for they are all young--were a discomfiting wait in the anteroom of the absolute. The majority of these stories depict encounters between strangers and their unexpected effects, which can be as concrete as a roomful of flowers or a bottle of wine, or as intangible as a miracle or a dream.
"In the vast literature of love, The Seducer's Diary is an intricate curiosity--a feverishly intellectual attempt to reconstruct an erotic failure as a pedagogic success, a wound masked as a boast," observes John Updike in his foreword to Søren Kierkegaard's narrative. This work, a chapter from Kierkegaard's first major volume, Either/Or, springs from his relationship with his fiancée, Regine Olsen. Kierkegaard fell in love with the young woman, ten years his junior, proposed to her, but then broke off their engagement a year later. This event affected Kierkegaard profoundly. Olsen became a muse for him, and a flood of volumes resulted. His attempt to set right, in writing, what he feels was a mistake in his relationship with Olsen taught him the secret of "indirect communication." The Seducer's Diary, then, becomes Kierkegaard's attempt to portray himself as a scoundrel and thus make their break easier for her.Matters of marriage, the ethical versus the aesthetic, dread, and, increasingly, the severities of Christianity are pondered by Kierkegaard in this intense work.
John Updike's twentieth novel, like his first, The Poorhouse Fair, takes place in one day, a day that contains much conversation and some rain. The seventy-nine-year-old painter Hope Chafetz, who in the course of her eventful life has been Hope Ouderkirk, Hope McCoy, and Hope Holloway, answers questions put to her by a New York interviewer named Kathryn, and recapitulates, through stories from her career and many marriages, the triumphant, poignant saga of postwar American art. In the evolving relation between the two women, interviewer and subject move in and out of the roles of daughter and mother, therapist and patient, predator and prey, supplicant and idol. The scene is central Vermont; the time, the early spring of 2001.
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