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The Early Stories: 1953-1975
 
 

The Early Stories: 1953-1975 [Kindle Edition]

John Updike
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

A grand collection of John Updike's inimitable early stories.



Gathering together almost all the short fiction that John Updike published between 1953 and 1975, this collection opens with Updike's autobiographical stories about a young boy growing up during the Depression in a small Pennsylvania town. There follows tales of life away from home, student days, early marriage and young families, and finally Updike's experimental stories on 'The Single Life'. Here, then, is a rich and satisfying feast of Updike - his wit, his easy mastery of language, his genius for recalling the subtleties of ordinary life and the excitements, and perils, of the pursuit of happiness.

About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. Since 1957 he has lived in Massachusetts. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Howells Medal.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1911 KB
  • Print Length: 840 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0241142644
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 April 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9CKM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #177,594 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He attended Shillington High School, Harvard College and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at Oxford, where he spent a year on a Knox Fellowship. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of the New Yorker, to which he contributed numerous poems, short stories, essays and book reviews. After 1957 he lived in Massachusetts until his death.

John Updike's first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, was published in 1959. It was followed by Rabbit, Run, the first volume of what have become known as the Rabbit books, which John Banville described as 'one of the finest literary achievements to have come out of the US since the war'. Rabbit is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990) were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Other novels by John Updike include Marry Me, The Witches of Eastwick, which was made into a major feature film, Memories of the Ford Administration, Brazil, In the Beauty of the Lilies, Toward the End of Time and Villages. He has written a number of volumes of short stories, and a selection entitled Forty Stories, taken from The Same Door, Pigeon Feathers, The Music School and Museums and Women, is published in Penguin, as is the highly acclaimed The Afterlife and Other Stories. His criticism and his essays, which first appeared in magazines such as The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, have been collected in five volumes. Golf Dreams, a collection of his writings on golf, has also been published. His Collected Poems 1953-1993 brings together almost all the poems from five previous volumes, including 'Hoping for a Hoopoe', 'Telephone Poles' and 'Tossing and Turning', as well as seventy poems previously unpublished in book form. The last books of his to be published by Hamish Hamilton were My Father's Tears and Other Stories, and Endpoint and Other Poems. He died in January 2009.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To sieve or not to sieve 19 Oct 2009
Format:Hardcover
I am a long-standing fan of Updike's short stories (though less so of his novels), and my three-star rating of this book is not a reflection of my general opinion of him as a writer. Nevertheless, I do have some issues with this particular volume.

I think that it was a mistake to collect over 100 short stories under one cover with virtually no sieving. Updike made his living from writing and, and as far as I understand, he never held a regular job after he resigned from the New Yorker at the age of 25 - so I would be the last person to blame him for having published some short stories that were not quite to his general standard. When a small collection contains a couple of such works, this is usually not a problem. The situation inevitably becomes different on a scale of 100+ samples: the gap in quality between the best 10 and the weakest 10 of them is massive, and it is impossible not to notice this. I do not think that exposing his lesser works against the background of so many great stories found in this volume has done Updike's standing any good. I own virtually all collections of short stories ever published by him, and in my opinion he emerges a better author from each of his individual early collections than from this volume that combines their content.

I did not like the fact that while putting together this book Updike decided to change a few things here and there. In particular, the last sentence of the wonderful 'Dentistry and Doubt' is way too subtle in its revised version, and I suspect that some readers may now miss the whole point of the ending: I probably would, had I not read the story the way it was originally published.

Giving the hardback a deckle edge was a bad idea.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great 10 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
brilliant pellucid writing by the master of the short story... would recommend to anyone who wants to understand the 20th century
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absorbing 30 July 2009
By lit.
Format:Hardcover
The Early Years has been a revelation and a reminder of how good writing can be.
The characters seem to exist before and after the short story. In terms of story and heart, it engages, and with precision, he brings us to the poetry of everyday life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding 17 Nov 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
wonderful!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyday brilliance 12 Mar 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I never much liked Updike's short stories until I started writing short stories myself. Many of the complaints people have with Updike are legitimate. He is usually light on plot. There is virtually no physical action--no fistfights, no murders, no sobbing confessions. But that, to me, is part of Updike's genius.
He always takes the difficult road. He doesn't simply have a husband cheat on his wife; instead, he has the husband worry that he will cheat on his wife, and then he considers the implications. I disagree with critics who accuse Updike of being unemotional. His stories are tangles of pure emotion.
My favorite story in the collection is "Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, A Dying Cat, A Traded Car." It's set up as a series of essays that eventually carry the reader into a story about the author's dying father. It feels like a compilation of random events until you get ot the last line, and then you realize that everything is connected, everything has a purpose. It may be the most beautiful ending I've ever read. (The second most beautiful ending is in "The Happiest I've Been.")
Updike is not for everyone. If you like simple, straightforward stories, read Tobias Wolff (he is amazing in a totally different way). But if you're interested in a world vivid with details--a world with no easy questions, let alone answers--try Updike.
One caveat: read slowly--the magic is more in the words than the paragraphs.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To sieve or not to sieve 19 Oct 2009
By Oldthinker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am a long-standing fan of Updike's short stories (though less so of his novels), and my three-star rating of this book is not a reflection of my general opinion of him as a writer. Nevertheless, I do have some issues with this particular volume.

I think that it was a mistake to collect over 100 short stories under one cover with virtually no sieving. Updike made his living from writing and, and as far as I understand, he never held a regular job after he resigned from the New Yorker at the age of 25 - so I would be the last person to blame him for having published some short stories that were not quite to his general standard. When a small collection contains a couple of such works, this is usually not a problem. The situation inevitably becomes different on a scale of 100+ samples: the gap in quality between the best 10 and the weakest 10 of them is massive, and it is impossible not to notice this. I do not think that exposing his lesser works against the background of so many great stories found in this volume has done Updike's standing any good. I own virtually all collections of short stories ever published by him, and in my opinion he emerges a better author from each of his individual early collections than from this volume that combines their content.

I did not like the fact that while putting together this book Updike decided to change a few things here and there. In particular, the last sentence of the wonderful 'Dentistry and Doubt' is way too subtle in its revised version, and I suspect that some readers may now miss the whole point of the ending: I probably would, had I not read the story the way it was originally published.

Giving the hardback a deckle edge was a bad idea. This feature should really be reserved for luxury editions; the combination of ordinary binding and artificially deckled ordinary paper looks anything but tasteful; in fact, it looks cheap. More importantly, a deckle fore-edge makes it very difficult to browse through the book; locating a particular story in this volume is a constant source of frustration, so I seldom open it any longer. If the publishers were absolutely set on deckling, they should have molested the head or tail edge (or both); the fore-edge needs to be smoothly cut because it has an important practical function: the reader slides his or her thumb across it when looking for something in the book.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only Human 14 Dec 2003
By Eric J. Lyman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I think that in many important ways, John Updike is America's best living writer, with a long history of unmatched insights and integrity, complex and believable characters, and a range that stretches (with great success) from criticism to essays and from poetry to prose.
The Early Stories is a testament to and a forum examining the fiction side of Mr. Updike's talents, including every short story (every one!) he ever published up until 1975, when he was 43 years old. This book is more than 800 pages long, and so I assume that the post-1975 stories were held out both in order to make sure the book could be lifted without strain or (more likely) as the stuff for a second mammoth volume of this great writer's work.
Most of us already know at least a few of the 102 stories in this thick book (I read one, "A & P," when I was in high school, long before I became a fan of Mr. Updike's work, and I didn't even realize he had been the author of it until I saw it again here), and many of the ones we don't know will reveal themselves as gems. But also -- fortunately or unfortunately -- many of the stories here simply don't work: the plots are either dated, or the characters or their motivations are too thin.
Curiously, I am unsure about whether this is positive or negative. I dismiss the possibility that the uneven quality here is natural when examining the work of a young writer not yet fully in control of his powers. After all, Mr. Updike had already created his two most memorable characters -- Rabbit Angstrom and Henry Bech (who appears in this book) -- before most of these stories came to life.
Instead, I see this as welcome proof that Mr. Updike is human, that he doesn't produce something awe inspiring every time his pen touches paper. That's the same realization I had when I saw my boyhood sports hero, quarterback Bob Greise, in a live game for the first time and all he seemed to do was get sacked and throw interceptions and incomplete passes all afternoon. In both cases, it's not the way I would have written the script, but perhaps it makes the truly great performances (and they are here, too) seem even better.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best book of 2003, likely the best book of the decade 29 Nov 2003
By Robert Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Why is there not more hoopla about this extraordinary volume? Although every story has been published before, the effect of reading them all through at once (at about a story a day since its publication, I am about a fifth of the way through) is stunning. In 1972, Vladimir Nabokov said that the greatest short stories of the past fifty years were written in America and he cited Updike as among its most inspired practitioners. He said, "I like so many of Updike's stories that it was difficult to choose one for demonstration and even more difficult to settle on its most inspired bit". Nabokov and Updike share the distinction of being the greatest American writers of the last half-century not to win a Nobel prize and the list of winners is made poor by their absence. American fiction writing does not get any better than this.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential collection, and in a class by itself 19 Dec 2006
By Billy Pilgrim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Many of these stories were originally published in short story collections (The Same Door, Museums and Women, Problems) that are long out of print and difficult to find. That alone makes this worth owning. Then there is the fact that this represents the collected work of an indisputedly talented and influential writer coming strong out of the gate and finding his voice, at a remarkably young age, before settling into a career and a life.

It is fascinating to observe this evolution and growth, as it happens over two decades, as he moves from, say, "Friends from Philadelphia", which is literal and straightforward, to the Barthelmesque (I don't if that's a word, but it should be) "Problems", which is self-reverential and self-mocking, yet also darkly funny, hinting as it does at the way life has affected the artist and his work. There is the longer "Pigeon Feathers", the (very) short "Eclipse", and the effortlessly brilliant "How to Love America and Leave It at the Same Time". Not to mention the Maple stories (which I'd already read in their collected form in Too Far To Go), the classic "A&P", and about, oh, 80 or 90 others, not all of them gems, or even successes, but fascinating and worth reading nonetheless. Add to this the fact that you can observe, through Updike's writing, the country moving from Mid-Century domesticity to Sixties' upheaval and Seventies' rudderlessness and confusion, and you have a truly indispensable collection.

There is also the added bonus of Updike's introduction, in which he reveals his life at the time (married and a father early in his twenties), who escaped to an office to write during the day so he could support his family by selling these stories to the New Yorker. An unexpected, and unexpectedly normal, glimpse of the author and his workings, it's an insight which gives me a new appreciation for these stories and how and why they came to be.

Lastly, don't be daunted by the heft and bulk of this tome, and don't be afraid to pick and choose which stories you read, and in what order...they have a way of staying with you long after you're done reading them.
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