S.: A Novel (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 26 Oct 2006
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About the Author
John Updike was born in 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He is the author of over fifty books, including The Poorhouse Fair; the Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest); 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; Gertrude and Claudius; and Seek My Face. He has written a number of collections of short stories, including The Afterlife and Other Stories and Licks of Love, which includes a final Rabbit story, Rabbit Remembered. His essays and criticism first appeared in publications such as the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, and are now collected into numerous volumes. Collected Poems 1953-1993 brings together almost all of his verse, and a new edition of his Selected Poems is forthcoming from Hamish Hamilton.
His novels, stories, and non-fiction collections have won have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award and the Howells Medal.
Updike graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year at Oxford's Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of staff at the New Yorker, and he lived in Massachusetts from 1957 until his death in January 2009.
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Top customer reviews
Having read almost all Updike's novels and short stories, I picked up this book with no expectations. For years I wondered why Updike had such a terrible reputation among feminists - I couldn't understand their ire from what I had read. In the middle 1980's, Updike picked up on the misandric attacks on men from radical feminists and used it to drive The Witches of Eastwick, Roger's Version and this minor masterpiece, S.
S. is Sarah, a 40 something descendant of Hester Prynne, who one day just picks up and leaves her surgeon husband, her daughter Pearl and great material comfort for an ashram in the Arizona desert. The tale is revealed through letters and cassette tapes, all from Sarah's point of view. Her 'spiritual' journey is revealed - a fantastic sham, as it turns out. Her confused outlook and willfully greedy behaviour makes for great ridicule in Updike's eyes. He strips off her hypocrisy and selfishness bit by bit, until the very last page of the book.
I found it compelling reading, dangerous at the time of writing and still terribly relevant. The extent to which anti-male views exist today in the culture is fantastic, and this counter-blast, couched in comedy and irony, is very welcome reading. I can see why feminists hate Updike now, once and for all, and it makes me like him all the more.
The writing is terrific all the way through, and the story is funny, sad and revealing. Only the form prevents me from rewarding it 5 stars - the letter writing is a convention, and a little painful. But as a radical re-write of The Scarlet Letter, it is a blast.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Updike wrote a lot of novels, but I have my favorites:Rabbit at Rest and Villages. He was a master, under-appreciated, I think, because he didn't choose to take popular political stands. This late novel is one more proof of his unrivaled versatility. Get past the rough going at the beginning, and this book will make you glad.
Perhaps not Updike's best but so much better than most of the stuff in print that it's worth reading.
This book is a compilation of letters from Sarah Worth as she writes to many others who live back home. She has left Charles and has moved to the west.
She goes on and on and on about some things like she's very lonely and hasn't talked to anyone in months. So explicit instructions on how to clean, leave which doors unlocked when the maid comes, etc
She has left to go follow a religious cult of sorts and devote her life to the organization. She writes to many telling them her side of what happened. Liked the details of the co-op and the jobs she has while there, so descriptive.
At times she is teaching the yoga phrases and monosyllables as if they are a new language.
Lots of discussion of the Budha practices, nudity, sex scenes and how it all plays a part in where she is located.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).
It is the story of a shallow woman who leaves her physician husband to join a commune. The plot is relayed through letters and tapes that she mails to family, friends and business acquaintances. In these mailings she discusses her old and new life and one winces at the awful lack of her insight and depth of any sort. The irony of it all is that she thinks she is truly a soul-searching ever-sensitive pilgrim on life's true path.
When I'd think that Updike had dealt the final blow and had shown what a truly despicable person and circumstance was in front of me, he'd just be rounding a corner and would throw another dart zeroing in at another abhorrent character flaw or circumstance. His writing is wonderful and his characterization and sense of place and person perhaps the best I've ever encountered. His juxtaposition of eastern and western religions, feminism and dependency, and his examination of values in several contexts makes this book a real gem.