Synopses & Reviews
“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.”
—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, “Olinger Stories,” already appeared as a paperback in 1964; in its introduction, Updike described Olinger, Pennsylvania, as “a square mile of middle-class homes physically distinguished by a bend in the central avenue that compels some side streets to deviate from the grid pattern.” These eleven tales, whose heroes age from ten to over thirty but remain at heart Olinger boys, are followed by groupings titled “Out in the World,” “Married Life,” and “Family Life,” tracing a common American trajectory. Family life is disrupted by the advent of “The Two Iseults,” a bifurcation originating in another small town, Tarbox, Massachusetts, where the Puritan heritage co-exists with post-Christian morals. “Tarbox Tales” are followed by “Far Out,” a group of more or less experimental fictions on the edge of domestic space, and “The Single Life,” whose protagonists are unmarried and unmoored.
Of these one hundred three stories, eighty first appeared in The New Yorker, and the other twenty-three in journals from the enduring Atlantic Monthly and Harpers to the defunct Big Table and Transatlantic Review. All show Mr. Updikes wit and verbal felicity, his reverence for ordinary life, and his love of the transient world.
"Reading the stories straight through reveals a striking thing, which is that you can read the stories straight through....Updike is a virtuoso, and The Early Stories is...an enormous showroom of Updike sentences, with their lovely curves and shiny details." Louis Menand, The New Yorker
"They are mature pieces, and the collection contains several stories still considered masterpieces....[H]is ingenuity, scope, and heart extend far beyond the island of Manhattan." Brad Hooper, Booklist
"[L]anguage in all its fecundity is Updike's native country, and he is its patriot." Cynthia Ozick, The New York Times Book Review
"Updike's famously elegant and evocative prose style apparently emerged full blown....This wonderful collection is arguably the best single-volume introduction to Updike's work available. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Updike unpeels the innocence from his generation one sentence at a time....Even when these literary shadows tint the prose, the territory is unquestionably Updike's..." John Freeman, The Denver Post
"[C]ompendious and highly uneven....[A] decidedly spotty production, filled indiscriminately with classic gems...clumsy apprentice works with creaky, contrived endings; and later ham-handed experimental efforts..." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[Updike] stakes his first retrospective claim at greatness with [this] brick of a book....Aside from affirming Updike's skill and achievements, this collection illuminates several intriguing aspects of his writing." Chauncey Mabe, The Sun-Sentinel
This grand collection of 103 stories gathers together almost all the short fiction that Updike published between 1953 and 1975, beginning with "Ace in the Hole" and ending with "Love Song for a Moog Synthesizer."
About the Author
John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 has lived in Massachusetts. He is the author of fifty-odd previous books, including twenty novels and numerous collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His fiction has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal.
Table of Contents
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you -- The alligators -- Pigeon feathers -- Friends from Philadelphia -- A sense of shelter -- Flight -- The happiest I've been -- The persistence of desire -- The blessed man of Boston, my grandmother's thimble, and Fanning Island -- Packed dirt, churchgoing, a dying cat, a traded car -- In football season -- The lucid eye in Silver Town -- The kid's whistling -- Ace in the hole -- Tomorrow and tomorrow and so forth -- The Christian roommates -- Dentistry and doubt -- A madman -- Still life -- Home -- Who made yellow roses yellow? -- His finest hour -- A trillion feet of gas -- Dear Alexandros -- The doctor's wife -- At a bar in Charlotte Amalie -- Toward evening -- Snowing in Greenwich Village -- Sunday teasing -- Incest -- A gift from the city -- Walter Briggs -- The crow in the woods -- Should wizard hit Mommy? -- Wife-wooing -- Unstuck -- Giving blood -- Twin beds in Rome -- Marching through Boston -- Nakedness -- The family meadow -- The day of the dying rabbit -- How to love America and leave it at the same time -- The music school -- Man and daughter in the cold -- The rescue -- Plumbing -- The orphaned swimming pool -- When everyone was pregnant -- Eros rampant -- Sublimating -- Nevada -- The gun shop -- Son -- Daughter, last glimpses of -- Solitaire -- Leaves -- The stare -- Museums and women -- Avec la bâebâe-sitter -- Four sides of one story -- The morning -- My lover has dirty fingernails -- Harv is plowing now -- I will not let thee go, except thou bless me -- The Indian -- The hillies -- The tarbox police -- The corner -- A & P -- Lifeguard -- The deacon -- The carol sing -- The taste of metal -- Your lover just called -- Commercial -- Minutes of the last meeting -- Believers -- Eclipse -- Archangel -- The dark -- The astronomer -- The witnesses -- A constellation of events -- Ethiopia -- Transaction -- Augustine's concubine -- During the Jurassic -- Under the microscope -- The baluchitherium -- The invention of the horse collar -- Jesus on Honshu -- The slump -- The sea's green sameness -- The Bulgarian poetess -- The hermit -- I am dying, Egypt, dying -- Separating -- Gesturing -- Killing -- Problems -- The man who loved extinct mammals -- Love song, for a Moog synthesizer.