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An edition from the Library of America is always a cause for celebration, because they are so beautifully made; this is no exception, arriving in a handsome cloth slipcase with a nice painting of Updike on it (though he is not smiling! In my experience, John U was ALWAYS smiling!).

The contents, though, are what really matters, and here there is no disappointment. You have of course been able to acquire these stories before; but this is a really well-considered collection of 186 of Updike's finest short fictions. From the very first (which is 'Ace in the Hole', the story which later was reworked at length into Rabbit, Run) to some stories he wrote knowing he was dying - there are real treats in store.

You do not have to love John Updike to love this book: one extraordinary thing for me was to see his variety as a writer. He is famous for writing about love, couples, sex, infidelity, but many of my favourite moments in these two volumes were to do with how well he writes families and children. "La Bébésitter", about a French afternoon childminder looking in on a disintegrating American marriage; and my absolute favourite, "Should Wizard Hit Mommy?" about a dad making up a story for his daughter and realising she is beginning to have her own ideas of how the story should go, which he dislikes and resists!

There are also some wonderful surreal moments where you sense Updike is 'trying on' Donald Barthelme and others 'for size' - "During the Jurassic', about, er, dinosaurs... and "Love Song for a Moog Synthesiser"...

Also there are some amazing evocations of American childhood and youth - here the highlight is "The Happiest I've Been" about a boy driving with a friend to college, who stops at a party before leaving town. Superb.

Of course there are also the many, many great stories he wrote about, well, love, couples, sex and infidelity. "The Women Who Got Away"..."Spanish Prelude to a Second Marriage" argh!!! SO great!! AND SO MANY!!

(Speaking of marriage... Missing from this book are all the The Maples Stories, which are collected nicely by Everyman and which do run so well together that it almost seems good not to have them mixed in in this volume.)

If you love reading you should own this. It is a fitting tribute to a great writer and his many moods.
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on 14 August 2015
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