OF THE FARM Hardcover – 12 Oct 1965
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"Very clearly and very completely a small masterpiece."
"--The New York Times
""AN EXCELLENT BOOK . . . A PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER . . . [Updike] has the painter's eye for form, line, and color; the poet's ear for metaphor; and the storyteller's knack
for 'and then what happened?' "
""Updike is a master of sheer elegance of form that shows itself time and again."
"--Los Angeles Times
""Updike just happens to write the most vivid prose in America."
"A small masterpiece . . . With "Of the Farm, " John Updike has achieved a sureness of touch, a suppleness of style, and a subtlety of vision that is gained by few writers of fiction."--"The New York Times"
"An excellent book . . . [Updike] has the painter's eye for form, line, and color; the poet's ear for metaphor; and the storyteller's knack for 'and then what happened?' "--"Harper's"
"Updike is a master of sheer elegance of form that shows itself time and again."--"Los Angeles Times" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
Joey Robinson is a thirty-five-year-old advertising consultant working in the urban jungle of Manhattan. One day, Joey decides to return to the farm where he grew up, and where his mother still lives. Accompanied by his newly acquired second wife and an eleven-year-old stepson, he begins to reassess and evaluate the course his life has taken. For three days, a quartet of voices explores the country air, relates stories, makes confessions, seeks solace, and hopes for love. But all of their emotional musings and reflections pale when tragedy strikes-- one that threatens to separate the family, even as it draws them closer. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Though a brief novel, Updike delivers an intricate and dramatic story peeling away the complicated layers that make up relationships. Throughout the book, the man is constantly on alert, hoping to defuse any arguments between the women in his life, but he refuses to stand up to his mother nor does he seem totally invested in being committed to his wife.
In fact, the man is an incredibly interesting character because he is so flawed, so monumentally incapable of mediating the warring women in a healthy manner, that he almost leaps off the page. Surely he'll remind you of someone you know ... perhaps even yourself. The women were also expertly written, something that doesn't always happen with a male author. I found the mother and wife realistic, respectable, and equally as flawed as the main character.
Though lacking any real physical action, Updike's study of mothers and sons and husbands and wives is wickedly enticing and, as always, written very well.
~Scott William Foley, author of Souls Triumphant
I would call Of the Farm "minimalist fiction." It is short and there is no action to speak of; no plot except what swirls underground as it were, no violence, no sex, nothing to keep the readers attention except the intricate portrayal of human relationships in the family, in this case a "blended" one--and, of course, Updike's fine writing, which at times gets a bit overdone with excessive and flowery metaphors that are only distracting and draw attention to the author rather than illuminating the characters or story. "See how clever I am and how fine I can turn a phrase. Bet you can't write this good. (I mean "well." Sorry.)"
Updike explores many issues of 1960s America in a compressed way--such issues as divorce with children, remarriage with children, aging, encroaching suburbanization, the slow disappearance of rural life in the Northeast, urban v. rural life. Of course, central to all are the relations between mother and son. Heck, these issues are still very much in the air today.
Of the Farm is full of nostalgia for something slipping away and maybe lost. There is also a wonderful mini-portrait/characterization of a precocious eleven year old boy. I think that was my favorite aspect of the novel.
The editorial review praise for Of the Farm seems quite overblown to me. If they say that stuff about Of the Farm, what would they say about a really good novel? Is this some sort of "praise inflation"?
The Robinsons are not nice people. Joey imagines himself to be a peacemaker, a youthful role he adopted to protect his complaisant father from his acerbic mother. But he does, in fact, have a mean streak, not unlike Mom, and does, sometimes, say harsh things to Peggy or animate her insecurities. Like his mother, Joey is also ruthless within his family. In this case, he finds guilty liberation in his divorce and remarriage while Mary had her superior and selfish reasons--mostly, she wanted full control over her son--when she forced her family to move to the isolated farm. The Robinsons, by the way, share nasty confidences about Peggy after she has gone to bed. Mary calls her stupid and common and Joey does not disagree. And without much pushing from Mary, Joey agrees that he misses his three children and that the second marriage was a mistake. But, he seems to be saying, it was HIS mistake. So accept it.
OF THE FARM exhibits many of Updike's maddening literary qualities. There is, for example, the wooden dialogue, with characters attaining near doctoral and implausible nuance. There are also the sudden and fraught exchanges--those "where did that come from?" moments--that Updike needs to clarify after they have occurred. There's the guilt and the lame vulgarity. And there are the pages when the novel stops as Updike describes the appearance of, say, raindrops sliding down a windowpane. Yet despite these flaws, Updike is sometimes able to write THE GREAT PERORATION, which somehow makes a virtue of his flaws, tucking every irksome aspect of his narrative into some great overarching theme that actually justifies his mistakes and his rush to write yet another book.
So, does OF THE FARM have TGP? IMHO, the answer is "not quite". In this case, the vehicle for Updike's peroration is a sermon delivered by a young but rising country minister. This explores what a man can receive from a woman and endows infidelity and divorce --at least in Joey's mind--with tragic nobility. But the peroration omits any justification for the nastiness, which is everywhere in this book.
Rounded up and sort of recommended.