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 Caldwells fifteen-year-old son, Peter. Brilliantly conflating the authors remembered past with tales from Greek mythology, John Updike translates Chirons 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.
John Updike's twenty-first novel, a bildungsroman, follows its hero, Owen Mackenzie, from his birth in the semi-rural Pennsylvania town of Willow to his retirement in the rather geriatric community of Haskells Crossing, Massachusetts. In between these two settlements comes Middle Falls, Connecticut, where Owen, an early computer programmer, founds with a partner, Ed Mervine, the successful firm of E-O Data, which is housed in an old gun factory on the Chunkaunkabaug River. Owen's education (Bildung) is not merely technical but liberal, as the humanity of his three villages, especially that of their female citizens, works to disengage him from his youthful innocence. As a child he early felt an abyss of calamity beneath the sunny surface quotidian, yet also had a dreamlike sense of leading a charmed existence. The women of his life, including his wives, Phyllis and Julia, shed what light they can. At one juncture he reflects, "How lovely she is, naked in the dark! How little men deserve the beauty and mercy of women!" His life as a sexual being merges with the communal shelter of villages: "A village is woven of secrets, of truths better left unstated, of houses with less window than opaque wall."This delightful, witty, passionate novel runs from the Depression era to the early twenty-first century.From the Hardcover edition.
John Updike has written a brilliant novel that ranks among the most provocative of his distinguished career. Terrorist is the story of Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy, an alienated American-born teenager who spurns the materialistic, hedonistic life he witnesses in the slumping New Jersey factory town he calls home. Turning to the words of the Holy Qur';an as expounded to him by the pedantic imam of a local mosque, Ahmad devotes himself fervently to God. Neither the world-weary guidance counselor at his high school nor Ahmad';s mischievously seductive classmate Joryleen succeeds in deflecting him from his course, as the threads of an insidious plot gather around him.“One compelling and surprising ride.”-USA Today“The startlingly contemporary story of a high school student . . . whose zealous Islamic faith and disaffection with modern life make him a pawn in the larger conflict between Muslim and Christian, East and West. They also make him a powerful voice for Updike';s ongoing critique of American civilization.”-Time“A chilling tale that is perhaps the most essential novel to emerge from Sept. 11.”-People (Critic';s Choice)From the Trade Paperback edition.
A stunning collection of poems that John Updike wrote during the last seven years of his life and put together only weeks before he died for this, his final book.The opening sequence, yes'>#8220;Endpoint,yes'>#8221; is made up of a series of connected poems written on the occasions of his recent birthdays and culminates in his confrontation with his final illness. He looks back on the boy that he was, on the family, the small town, the people, and the circumstances that fed his love of writing, and he finds endless delight and solace in yes'>#8220;turning the oddities of life into words.yes'>#8221;yes'>#8220;Other Poemsyes'>#8221; range from the fanciful (what would it be like to be a stolen Rembrandt painting? he muses) to the celebratory, capturing the flux of life. A section of sonnets follows, some inspired by travels to distant lands, others celebrating the idiosyncrasies of nature in his own backyard.For John Updike, the writing of poetry was always a special joy, and this final collection is an eloquent and moving testament to the life of this extraordinary writer.From the Hardcover edition.
Set in the near future of 2020, this disconcerting philosophical fantasy depicts an America devastated by a war with China that has left its populace decimated, its government a shambles, and its natural resources tainted. The hero is Ben Turnbull, a sixty-six-year-old retired investment counselor, who, like Thoreau, sticks close to home and traces the course of one Massachusetts year in his journal. Something of a science buff, he finds that his disrupted personal history has been warped by the disjunctions and vagaries of the “many-worlds” hypothesis derived from the indeterminacy of quantum theory. His identity branches into variants extending back through the past and forward into the evolution of the universe, as both it and his own mortal, nature-haunted existence move toward the end of time.
Rabbit, Run is the book that established John Updike as one of the major American novelists of his--or any other--generation. Its hero is Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a onetime high-school basketball star who on an impulse deserts his wife and son. He is twenty-six years old, a man-child caught in a struggle between instinct and thought, self and society, sexual gratification and family duty--even, in a sense, human hard-heartedness and divine Grace. Though his flight from home traces a zigzag of evasion, he holds to the faith that he is on the right path, an invisible line toward his own salvation as straight as a ruler’s edge.
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.
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 ones existence is brief and unsustainable, but the imaginative quest that inspires its creation is eternal.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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 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.
John Updikes memoirs consist of six Emersonian essays that together trace the inner shape of the life, up to the age of fifty-five, of a relatively fortunate American male. The author has attempted, his Foreword states, to treat this life, this massive datum which happens to be mine, as a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world. In the service of this metaphysical effort, he has been hair-raisingly honest, matchlessly precise, and self-effacingly humorous. He takes the reader beyond self-consciousness, and beyond self-importance, into sheer wonder at the miracle 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.
In this antic riff on Hawthornes 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.
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.
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 Prynnes side of the triangle described by Hawthornes Scarlet Letter; it is also a burlesque of the quest for enlightenment, and an affectionate meditation on American womanhood.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Toward the end of the Vietnam era, in a snug little Rhode Island seacoast town, wonderful powers have descended upon Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie, bewitching divorcées with sudden access to all that is female, fecund, and mysterious. Alexandra, a sculptor, summons thunderstorms; Jane, a cellist, floats on the air; and Sukie, the local gossip columnist, turns milk into cream. Their happy little coven takes on new, malignant life when a dark and moneyed stranger, Darryl Van Horne, refurbishes the long-derelict Lenox mansion and invites them in to play. Thenceforth scandal flits through the darkening, crooked streets of Eastwick--and through the even darker fantasies of the towns collective psyche.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Yes'>#8220;A drop of truth, of lived experience, glistens in each.yes'>#8221; This is how John Updike, one of the worldyes'>#8217;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 Tomyes'>#8217;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 yes'>#8220;Ten Epochal Moments in the American Libido,yes'>#8221; from Pocahontas and John Smith to Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky; muses on how the practice of faith changes but doesnyes'>#8217;t disappear; and shares his reaction to the attacks on 9/11 (in Brooklyn that day, yes'>#8220;Freedom, reflected in the streetyes'>#8217;s diversity and quotidian ease, felt palpableyes'>#8221;). Due Considerations proves that John Updike is, as noted in The Boston Globe, yes'>#8220;our greatest critic of literature.yes'>#8221;Praise for Due Considerations:A New York Times Notable Bookyes'>#8220;The prose is clean, elegant, exquisitely calibrated. . . . [Updike is] one of the best essayists and critics this country has produced in the lst century.yes'>#8221;yes'>#8211;Los Angeles Times Book Reviewyes'>#8220;Updikeyes'>#8217;s scope is rather breathtaking. . . . When I do not know the subject wellyes'>#8211;as in his finely illustrated art reviews of Bruegel, Dyes'>#252;rer and Goyayes'>#8211;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.yes'>#8221;yes'>#8211;Christopher Hitchens, The New York Times Book Reviewyes'>#8220;With his packrat curiosity . . . his prodigious memory and attendant knack for choosing the yes'>#8216;justrightyes'>#8217; fact or quote, and his everpresent 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.yes'>#8221;yes'>#8211;Rocky Mountain Newsyes'>#8220;Updike knows more about literature than almost anyone breathing today. . . . He's beyond knowledgeableyes'>#8211;he makes Google look wanting.yes'>#8221;yes'>#8211;Baltimore Sunyes'>#8220;Provocative and incisive . . . This volume reminds us that [Updikeyes'>#8217;s] prose sets our literary bar very high indeed.yes'>#8221;yes'>#8211;The Charlotte Observeryes'>#8220;Updike offers an effortless mastery of form and content.yes'>#8221;yes'>#8211;The Boston GlobeFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
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.
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 crner 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.
Yes'>#8220;He is a religious writer; he is a comic realist; he knows what everything feels like, how everything works. He is putting together a body of work which in substantial intelligent creation will eventually be seen as second to none in our time.yes'>#8221;yes'>#8212;William H. Pritchard, The Hudson Review, reviewing Museums and Women (1972)A harvest and not a winnowing, The Early Stories preserves almost all of the short fiction John Updike published between 1954 and 1975. The stories are arranged in eight sections, of which the first, yes'>#8220;Olinger Stories,yes'>#8221; already appeared as a paperback in 1964; in its introduction, Updike described Olinger, Pennsylvania, as yes'>#8220;a square mile of middleclass homes physically distinguished by a bend in the central avenue that compels some side streets to deviate from the grid pattern.yes'>#8221; These eleven tales, whose heroes age from ten to over thirty but remain at heart Olinger boys, are followed by groupings titled yes'>#8220;Out in the World,yes'>#8221; yes'>#8220;Married Life,yes'>#8221; and yes'>#8220;Family Life,yes'>#8221; tracing a common American trajectory. Family life is disrupted by the advent of yes'>#8220;The Two Iseults,yes'>#8221; a bifurcation originating in another small town, Tarbox, Massachusetts, where the Puritan heritage coexists with postChristian morals. yes'>#8220;Tarbox Talesyes'>#8221; are followed by yes'>#8220;Far Out,yes'>#8221; a group of mre or less experimental fictions on the edge of domestic space, and yes'>#8220;The Single Life,yes'>#8221; whose protagonists are unmarried and unmoored.Of these one hundred three stories, eighty first appeared in The New Yorker, and the other twentythree in journals from the enduring Atlantic Monthly and Harperyes'>#8217;s to the defunct Big Table and Transatlantic Review. All show Mr. Updikeyes'>#8217;s wit and verbal felicity, his reverence for ordinary life, and his love of the transient world.From the Hardcover edition.
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.
Harry Angstrom, now middle aged and the chief sales representative of a Toyota dealership, attempts to cope with such problems as inflation, governmental ineffectiveness, the return of his prodigal son, and a chance encounter with an old girlfriend