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5.0 out of 5 stars Sexual scars, 10 Dec 2009
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This review is from: Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, "Rabbit Remembered" (Paperback)
Like most of Updike's novels, these stories touch on familiar themes - small-town adultery, failed marriages, love turned sour - but he brings each pair or group of unhappy couples into a focus that is piercingly sharp, often poignant and sometimes funny-sad. He has a wicked way with words: a multi-faithless marriage "had worn us down to skeletons of weary honesty".

'Rabbit Remembered', a 180-page novella, is a postscript to the life of Updike's most vivid creation, Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom who had a fatal heart attack at the end of 'Rabbit At Rest' in 1989. !0 years later his widow Janet is comfortably married to Ronnie, a large affectionate impatient man whose first wife was one of Harry's many mistresses. Janice is happy but a bit bored; she misses Harry. Their son Nelson, at 42, lives with his mom and stepdad, a reformed cokehead turned shrink; divorced, he misses his wife and kids. Nelson and , to an extent, Janice have reinvented themselves, as Americans - and America - are wont to do. On the eve of the Millennium, Harry's 39-year-old daughter by another old flame, turns up to disrupt their lives. Harry, that "hard-hearted, thick-skinned showboat" of a man, casts a long shadow over his wife and son. This isn't quite as good as the original quartet, there are a few longueurs and something is missing (Rabbit, obviously), but last 25 pages, on the cusp of a new age, are vintage Updike.

In the best of the stories, 'His Oeuvre", he updates us on his other alter ego, Henry Bech, literary lion and A-list lothario. Now old and more nor less happily remarried, Bech on a book tour keeps running into old girlfriends and revisiting erotic hotspots in his mind.

Sex and the scars it leaves: this is the very essence of Updike, one of the 20th century's true greats.

[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]
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Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, "Rabbit Remembered"
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