To Carter Billings, the hero of John Updike's title story, all of England has the glow of an afterlife: "A miraculous lacquer lay upon everything, beading each roadside twig, each reed of thatch in the cottage roofs, each tiny daisy trembling in the grass". All twenty-two of the stories in this collection - John Updike's eleventh, and his first in seven years - in various ways partake of this glow, as life beyond middle age is explored and found to have its own particular wonders, from omniscient golf caddies to prescient sexual rumors, from the deaths of mothers and brothers-in-law to the births of grandchildren. As death approaches, life takes on, for some of these aging heroes, a translucence, a magical fragility; vivid memory and casual misperception lend the mundane an antic texture, and the backward view, lengthening, acquires a certain grandeur. Travel, whether to England or Ireland, Italy or the isles of Greece, heightens perceptions and tensions. As is usual in Mr. Updike's fiction, spouses quarrel, lovers part, children are brave, and houses with their decor have the presence of personalities. His is a world where innocence stubbornly persists, and fresh beginnings almost outnumber losses.
Following on from the acclaimed Just Looking and Still Looking, Always Looking is an insightful collection of art criticism and a masterclass in appreciating art - from the great American man of letters, John Updike. Always Looking treats readers to a series of elegant and sensitive essays on art, and includes writing on a comprehensive array of subjects, both American and European. In 'The Clarity of Things', Updike looks closely at Copley, Homer, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop, in order to explore what is 'American' in American art. From here he moves to masterpieces of American and European art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries -- from the sublime landscapes of Frederic Church and the series paintings of Monet and Degas, to the verbal-visual puzzles of Magritte and the steely sculptural environments of Richard Serra. With more than two-hundred full-colour reproductions, Always Looking is an invitation to see the world afresh through the eyes of John Updike, a matchless connoisseur. 'Our time's greatest man of letters - as brilliant a literary critic and essayist as he was a novelist and short-story writer. His death constitutes a loss to our literature that is immeasurable'Philip Roth'He was a modern master, a colossal figure in American letters, the finest writer working in English. He dazzled us with his interests and intellectual curiosity, and he turned a beautiful sentence' Ian McEwan'Updike was that rare creature: an all-around man of letters, a literary decathlete who brought to his criticism an insider's understanding of craft and technique; a first-class appreciator of talent, capable of describing other artists' work with nimble, pictorial brilliance; an ebullient observer, who could bring to essays about dinosaurs or golf or even the theory of relativity a contagious, boyish sense of wonder' Michiko Kakutani, New York TimesJohn Updike was born in 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. His novels, stories, and nonfiction collections have won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died in January 2009. Christopher Carduff, the editor of this volume, is a member of the staff of The Library of America. He is also the editor of Higher Gossip, a collection of John Updike's essays and criticism.
John Updike's first collection of verse since his Collected Poems, 1953-1993 brings together fifty-eight poems, three of them of considerable length. The four sections take up, in order: America, its cities and airplanes; the poet's life, his childhood, birthdays, and ailments; foreign travel, to Europe and the tropics; and, beginning with the long "Song of Myself," daily life, its furniture and consolations. There is little of the light verse with which Mr. Updike began his writing career nearly fifty years ago, but a light touch can be felt in his nimble manipulation of the ghosts of metric order, in his caressing of the living textures of things, and in his reluctance to wave goodbye to it all.From the Hardcover edition.
John Updike's first collection of nonfiction pieces, published in 1965 when the author was thirty-three, is a diverting and illuminating gambol through midcentury America and the writer's youth. It opens with a choice selection of parodies, casuals, and "Talk of the Town" reports, the fruits of Updike's boyish ambition to follow in the footsteps of Thurber and White. These jeux d'esprit are followed by "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," an immortal account of Ted Williams's last at-bat in Fenway Park; "The Dogwood Tree," a Wordsworthian evocation of one Pennsylvania childhood; and five autobiographical essays and stories. Rounding out the volume are classic considerations of Nabokov, Salinger, Spark, Beckett, and others, the earliest efforts of the book reviewer who would go on to become, in The New York Times's estimation, "the pre-eminent critic of his generation." Updike called this collection "motley but not unshapely." Some would call it a classic of its kind.
In this, the final volume in John Updike's mock-heroic trilogy about the Jewish American writer Henry Bech, our hero is older but scarcely wiser. Now in his seventies, he remains competitive, lecherous, and self-absorbed, lost in a brave new literary world where his books are hyped by Swiss-owned conglomerates, showcased in chain stores attached to espresso bars, and returned to warehouses just three weeks later. In five chapters more startling and surreal than any that have come before, Bech presides over the American literary scene, enacts bloody revenge on his critics, and wins the world's most coveted writing prize. It's not easy being Henry Bech in the post-Gutenbergian world, but somebody has to do it, and he brings to the task his signature mixture of grit, spit, and ennui.an world, but somebody has to do it, and he brings to the task an indomitable mixture of grit and ennui.From the Hardcover edition.
The Jewish American novelist Henry Bech--procrastinating, libidinous, and tart-tongued, his reputation growing while his powers decline--made his first appearance in 1965, in John Updike's "The Bulgarian Poetess." That story won the O. Henry First Prize, and it and the six Bech adventures that followed make up this collection. "Bech is the writer in me," Updike once said, "creaking but lusty, battered but undiscourageable, fed on the blood of ink and the bread of white paper." As he trots the globe, promotes himself, and lurches from one woman's bed to another's, Bech views life with a blend of wonder and cynicism that will make followers of the lit-biz smile with delight and wince in recognition.From the Trade Paperback edition.
In this follow-up to Bech: A Book, Henry Bech, the priapic, peripatetic, and unproductive Jewish American novelist, returns with seven more chapters from his mock-heroic life. He turns fifty in a confusing blend of civic and erotic circumstances while publicizing himself in Australia and Canada. He marries a shiksa and travels with her to Israel, where she falls in love with the land, and to Scotland, where he does. And--sweating buckets! thinking big! minting miracles!--he writes an ingeniously tawdry bestseller. Bech's aesthetic and moral embarrassments reveal acid truths about both his trade and our times.From the Trade Paperback edition.
This anthology has been striving to contain the best short stories by some of the writers in American literature, featuring short fiction predominantly.
memorable short stories from the 1900's from some of our best-known authors.
In the dream-Brazil of John Updike's imagining, almost anything is possible if you are young and in love. When Tristão Raposo, a black nineteen-year-old from the Rio slums, and Isabel Leme, an eighteen-year-old upper-class white girl, meet on Copacabana Beach, their flight from family and into marriage takes them to the farthest reaches of Brazil's phantasmagoric western frontier. Privation, violence, captivity, and reversals of fortune afflict them, yet this latter-day Tristan and Iseult cling to the faith that each is the other's fate for life. Spanning twenty-two years, from the sixties through the eighties, Brazil surprises with its celebration of passion, loyalty, romance, and New World innocence.
To the list of John Updike's well-intentioned protagonists--Rabbit Angstrom, George Caldwell, Piet Hanema, Henry Bech--add James Buchanan, seen above as a young Congressman in the 1820's, and on the front cover as the harried fifteenth President of the United States (1857-1861). In a play meant to be read, Buchanan's political and private lives are represented as aspects of his spiritual life, whose crowning, condensing act is the act of dying. A wide-ranging Afterword rounds out the dramatic portrait of one of America's lesser known, and least appreciated, leaders.
As a present to John Updike on his fiftieth birthday, and as a treat for his readers, his first book, a collection of light verse originally published twenty-five years ago, is brought back into print, with an author's foreword and some small revisions. Many of these poems were written when the author was a young art student in England and a "Talk of the Town" reporter for The New Yorker, which published over forty of them. They deal with the quiddities of things, the oddities of science, quirks of American life (especially as reported in Life magazine during those smiling Eisenhower years), and moments of epiphany in literature and nature. A number--"Ex-Basketball Player," "Superman," "Mirror," "Quilt"--have been frequently reprinted in anthologies. All show a sharp ear, a fond eye, and an active though not always light-hearted fancy. Written mainly to amuse, Updike's early verse was also, as his foreword states, "a way of dealing with the universe, an exercise of the Word." Admirers who know him mostly through his fiction should be delighted to encounter what he calls "these old evidences of my own high spirits." The Carpentered Hen, in recent years a hard-to-get collector's item, now again. unhinges her wings,abandons her nestof splinter, and sings.
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND THE PRIX DU MEILLEUR LIVRE ÉTRANGER The Centaur is a modern retelling of the legend of Chiron, the noblest and wisest of the centaurs, who, painfully wounded yet unable to die, gave up his immortality on behalf of Prometheus. In the retelling, Olympus becomes small-town Olinger High School; Chiron is George Caldwell, a science teacher there; and Prometheus is Caldwell's fifteen-year-old son, Peter. Brilliantly conflating the author's remembered past with tales from Greek mythology, John Updike translates Chiron's agonized search for relief into the incidents and accidents of three winter days spent in rural Pennsylvania in 1947. The result, said the judges of the National Book Award, is "a courageous and brilliant account of a conflict in gifts between an inarticulate American father and his highly articulate son."
From the book: A collection of twelve poems describing the activities in a child's life and the changes in the weather as the year moves from January to December.
"The idea of verse, of poetry, has always, during forty years spent working primarily in prose, stood at my elbow, as a standing invitation to the highest kind of verbal exercise--the most satisfying, the most archaic, the most elusive of critical control. In hotel rooms and airplanes, on beaches and Sundays, at junctures of personal happiness or its opposite, poetry has comforted me with its hope of permanence, its packaging of flux." Thus John Updike writes in introducing his Collected Poems. The earliest poems here date from 1953, when Updike was twenty-one, and the last were written after he turned sixty. Almost all of those published in his five previous collections are included, with some revisions. Arranged in chronological order, the poems constitute, as he says, "the thread backside of my life's fading tapestry." An ample set of notes at the back of the book discusses some of the hidden threads, and expatiates upon a number of fine points. Nature--tenderly intricate, ruthlessly impervious--is a constant and ambiguous presence in these poems, along with the social observation one would expect in a novelist. No occasion is too modest or too daily to excite metaphysical wonder, or to provoke a lyrical ingenuity of language. Yet even the wittiest of the poems are rooted to the ground of experience and fact. "Seven Odes to Seven Natural Processes" attempt to explicate the physical world with a directness seldom attempted in poetry. Several longer poems--"Leaving Church Early," "Midpoint"--use autobiography to proclaim the basic strangeness of existence.
The Coup describes violent events in the imaginary African nation of Kush, a large, landlocked, drought-ridden, sub-Saharan country led by Colonel Hakim Félix Ellelloû. ("A leader," writes Colonel Ellelloû, "is one who, out of madness or goodness, takes upon himself the woe of a people. There are few men so foolish.") Colonel Ellelloû has four wives, a silver Mercedes, and a fanatic aversion--cultural, ideological, and personal--to the United States. But the U.S. keeps creeping into Kush, and the repercussions of this incursion constitute the events of the novel. Colonel Ellelloû tells his own story--always elegantly, and often in the third person--from an undisclosed location in the South of France.From the Trade Paperback edition.
One of the signature novels of the American 1960s, Couples is a book that, when it debuted, scandalized the public with prose pictures of the way people live, and that today provides an engrossing epitaph to the short, happy life of the "post-Pill paradise." It chronicles the interactions of ten young married couples in a seaside New England community who make a cult of sex and of themselves. The group of acquaintances form a magical circle, complete with ritualistic games, religious substitutions, a priest (Freddy Thorne), and a scapegoat (Piet Hanema). As with most American utopias, this one's existence is brief and unsustainable, but the "imaginative quest" that inspires its creation is eternal.From the Trade Paperback edition.
"A drop of truth, of lived experience, glistens in each." This is how John Updike, one of the world's most acclaimed novelists, modestly describes his nonfiction work, the brilliant and graceful essays and criticism he has written for more than five decades. Due Considerations is his sixth collection, and perhaps the most moving, stylish, and personal volume yet. Here he reflects on such writers and works as Emerson, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Colson Whitehead, The Wizard of Oz, Don DeLillo, The Portrait of a Lady, Margaret Atwood, The Mabinogion, and Proust. Updike also provides a whimsical and insightful list of "Ten Epochal Moments in the American Libido," from Pocahontas and John Smith to Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky; muses on how the practice of faith changes but doesn't disappear; and shares his reaction to the attacks on 9/11 (in Brooklyn that day, "Freedom, reflected in the street's diversity and quotidian ease, felt palpable"). Due Considerations proves that John Updike is, as noted in The Boston Globe, "our greatest critic of literature."Praise for Due Considerations:A New York Times Notable Book"The prose is clean, elegant, exquisitely calibrated. . . . [Updike is] one of the best essayists and critics this country has produced in the last century."-Los Angeles Times Book Review"Updike's scope is rather breathtaking. . . . When I do not know the subject well-as in his finely illustrated art reviews of Bruegel, Dürer and Goya-I learn much from what Updike has to impart. When he considers an author I love, like Proust or Czeslaw Milosz, I often find myself appreciating familiar things in a new way."-Christopher Hitchens, The New York Times Book Review"With his pack-rat curiosity . . . his prodigious memory and attendant knack for choosing the 'just-right' fact or quote, and his ever-present astonishment at both the stupidity and genius on display wherever he looks, Updike is in many ways an ideal critic. . . . It is a privilege to be in the company of this wonderfully American voice."-Rocky Mountain News"Updike knows more about literature than almost anyone breathing today. . . . He's beyond knowledgeable-he makes Google look wanting."-Baltimore Sun"Provocative and incisive . . . This volume reminds us that [Updike's] prose sets our literary bar very high indeed."-The Charlotte Observer"Updike offers an effortless mastery of form and content."-The Boston GlobeFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction A harvest and not a winnowing, this volume collects 103 stories, almost all of the short fiction that John Updike wrote between 1953 and 1975. "How rarely it can be said of any of our great American writers that they have been equally gifted in both long and short forms," reads the citation composed for John Updike upon his winning the 2006 Rea Award for the Short Story. "Contemplating John Updike's monumental achievement in the short story, one is moved to think of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, Ernest Hemingway, and perhaps William Faulkner--writers whose reputations would be as considerable, or nearly, if short stories had been all that they had written. From [his] remarkable early short story collections . . . through his beautifully nuanced stories of family life [and] the bittersweet humors of middle age and beyond . . . John Updike has created a body of work in the notoriously difficult form of the short story to set beside those of these distinguished American predecessors. Congratulations and heartfelt thanks are due to John Updike for having brought such pleasure and such illumination to so many readers for so many years."
John Updike's fifth collection of poetry faces nature on a number of levels. An opening section of sonnets touches upon death, aging, and, in a sequence of describing a week in Spain, insomnia and dread. The poems that follow consider nature in the form of seasons, of planting trees and being buried, of shadow and rain, of pain and accumulation, and of such human diversions as art and travel. The last poem here, and the longest in the book, undertakes a walking tour of each of Jupiter's four major moons, a scientific excursion that leads into the extravagant precisions of the "Seven Odes to Seven Natural Processes," a lyrical yet literal-minded celebration of some of the earthly forces that uphold and surround us. Finally, a dozen examples of light verse toy with such natural phenomena as presbyopia, the energy crunch, food, and sex. Like the best of the metaphysical poets, Mr. Updike embraces the world in all its forms and creates conceits out of the casual as well as the moments.
Gertrude and Claudius are the "villains" of Hamlet: he the killer of Hamlet's father and usurper of the Danish throne, she his lusty consort, who marries Claudius before her late husband's body is cold. But in this imaginative "prequel" to the play, John Updike makes a case for the royal couple that Shakespeare only hinted at. Gertrude and Claudius are seen afresh against a background of fond intentions and family dysfunction, on a stage darkened by the ominous shadow of a sullen, erratic, disaffected prince. "I hoped to keep the texture light," Updike said of this novel, "to move from the mists of Scandinavian legend into the daylight atmosphere of the Globe. I sought to narrate the romance that preceded the tragedy."
John Updike wrote about the lure of golf for five decades, from the first time he teed off at the age of twenty-five until his final rounds at the age of seventy-six. Golf Dreams collects the most memorable of his golf pieces, high-spirited evidence of his learning, playing, and living for the game. The camaraderie of golf, the perils of its present boom, how to relate to caddies, and how to manage short putts are among the topics he addresses, sometimes in lyrical essays, sometimes in light verse, sometimes in wickedly comic fiction. All thirty pieces have the lilt of a love song, and the crispness of a firm chip stiff to the pin.
'Gossip of a higher sort' was how the incomparable John Updike described the art of the review. Here then is the last collection of his best, most dazzling gossip. Influential reviews of Toni Morrison, John le Carré and Ann Patchett and expert critique on exhibitions of El Greco, Van Gogh and Schiele are included alongside previously uncollected short stories, poems and essays on his 'pet topics'. Following earlier prose collections More Matter and Due Considerations, Updike began compiling Higher Gossip shortly before his death in 2009. Displaying his characteristic humour and insight on subjects as varied as ageing, golf, dinosaurs, make-up and his own fiction, the delightful Higher Gossip bookends a legacy of over fifty celebrated titles. This is essential reading for admirers of the deeply missed John Updike, and for any who profess a love for art and literature.
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD "Writing criticism is to writing fiction and poetry as hugging the shore is to sailing in the open sea," writes John Updike in his Foreword to this collection of literary considerations. But the sailor doth protest too much: This collection begins somewhere near deep water, with a flotilla of short fiction, humor pieces, and personal essays, and even the least of the reviews here--those that "come about and draw even closer to the land with another nine-point quotation"--are distinguished by a novelist's style, insight, and accuracy, not just surface sparkle. Indeed, as James Atlas commented, the most substantial critical articles, on Melville, Hawthorne, and Whitman, go out as far as Updike's fiction: They are "the sort of ambitious scholarly reappraisal not seen in this country since the death of Edmund Wilson." With Hugging the Shore, Michiko Kakutani wrote, Updike established himself "as a major and enduring critical voice; indeed, as the pre-eminent critic of his generation."
In the Beauty of the Lilies begins in 1910 and traces God's relation to four generations of American seekers, beginning with Clarence Wilmot, a clergyman in Paterson, New Jersey. He loses his faith but finds solace at the movies, respite from "the bleak facts of life, his life, gutted by God's withdrawal." His son, Teddy, becomes a mailman who retreats from American exceptionalism, religious and otherwise, into a life of studied ordinariness. Teddy has a daughter, Esther, who becomes a movie star, an object of worship, an All-American goddess. Her neglected son, Clark, is possessed of a native Christian fervor that brings the story full circle: in the late 1980s he joins a Colorado sect called the Temple, a handful of "God's elect" hastening the day of reckoning. In following the Wilmots' collective search for transcendence, John Updike pulls one wandering thread from the tapestry of the American Century and writes perhaps the greatest of his later novels.