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OF THE FARM Hardcover – 12 Oct 1965

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Knopf (12 Oct. 1965)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394438981
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394438986
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,669,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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."
"--Vanity Fair

"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.

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Format: Kindle Edition
In Updike's literary canon, "Of The Farm" is often overlooked. Recently reissued, you can now feast on this curious little item containing some memorable characters, a fine sense of place, and yet more of Updike's observations on married life and relationships. The story is pretty involving from the start, with a family returning to a farm that no one farms in order to spend time with the protagonist's ailing mother. There is plenty of wit, a dash of snappy dialogue, and some amazing geographical description from the untouchable Mr. Updike. Not as essential as his Rabbit works, but certainly worth a look, especially for budding writers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 21 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intricate and Dramatic Story About Relationships 1 April 2009
By Scott William Foley - Published on
Format: Paperback
Of The Farm details the complex relationship between a son in his mid-thirties and his elderly mother. The son brings his new wife and her son from a previous marriage to his mother's remote farm, and it's obvious from the beginning that the mother and the wife are not going to get along.

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
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Toxic Mother 13 Sept. 2009
By Stephen Schwartz - Published on
Format: Paperback
Of the Farm by John Updike should be read along with Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth. They both portray toxic mothers but from archly different perspectives. And they are almost contemporaneous works from the mid-1960s. Unlike Portnoy's Complaint no hint of humor lightens Updike's novel, nor is the mood anything but tense, strained, and difficult--just like much of life. But a little humor to help keep one's perspective wouldn't hurt, would it?

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"?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A distillation--good and bad--of Updike 4 Aug. 2014
By Ethan Cooper - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In OF THE FARM, Updike scrutinizes the plight of Joey Robinson, a 35 year-old New Yorker, as he returns to the farm where he lived his adolescence and visits his difficult mother. Joey is with Peggy, his second wife, and her precocious eleven year-old son, who uses such words as "uncanny" and "perhaps". On this visit, Joey will step in for his father, who died the summer before, and mow the fields. But the point of the visit is to enable Mary, Joey's mother, to get to know Peggy, who she has met only once before. As they pull up to the farmhouse for their visit, Joey tells Peggy: "I don't expect you and she to get along."

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Updike 4 Mar. 2012
By olingerstories - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
OF THE FARM is not for the feint-hearted, nor for those looking for sympathetic characters. It is grueling, a word by word march on strained relationships and bad decisions. But, that's also what makes it worthwhile, Updike prying into the human condition. Joey is undoubtedly Updike himself, leaving Olinger, marrying poorly, and living by the ocean in order to breathe. The mother is selfishness personified. The new wife lacks compassion. The only redeeming character is the young stepson, too young to know exactly what is going on around him. Still, intense Updike is great Updike, even if it brings a twinge of pain to turn to the next page.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Updike or Not 31 Oct. 2010
By G. C. Picchetti - Published on
Format: Paperback
I am not a huge Updike reader. Of the Farm is rich in description of character & scenery but not much of story. So is it worth a read? You bet it is. He reveals more about emotions & how to handle them than any shrink is willing to do. After all the purpose of a book is to read it at least once, not come back repeatedly for hundreds a dollars an hour getting nothing done except getting the shrink's car paid for & detailed. I enjoyed the book. Actually the farm is the main character.
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