Cover image for The early stories, 1953-1975
Title:
The early stories, 1953-1975
Author:
Updike, John.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Short stories. Selections
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : A.A. Knopf, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
xv, 838 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781400040728
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

"He is a religious writer; he is a comic realist; he knows what everything feels like, how everything works. He is putting together a body of work which in substantial intelligent creation will eventually be seen as second to none in our time."
--William H. Pritchard, The Hudson Review, reviewing Museums and Women (1972)

A harvest and not a winnowing, The Early Stories preserves almost all of the short fiction John Updike published between 1954 and 1975.

The stories are arranged in eight sections, of which the first, "Olinger Stories," already appeared as a paperback in 1964; in its introduction, Updike described Olinger, Pennsylvania, as "a square mile of middle-class homes physically distinguished by a bend in the central avenue that compels some side streets to deviate from the grid pattern." These eleven tales, whose heroes age from ten to over thirty but remain at heart Olinger boys, are followed by groupings titled "Out in the World," "Married Life," and "Family Life," tracing a common American trajectory. Family life is disrupted by the advent of "The Two Iseults," a bifurcation originating in another small town, Tarbox, Massachusetts, where the Puritan heritage co-exists with post-Christian morals. "Tarbox Tales" are followed by "Far Out," a group of more or less experimental fictions on the edge of domestic space, and "The Single Life," whose protagonists are unmarried and unmoored.

Of these one hundred three stories, eighty first appeared in The New Yorker, and the other twenty-three in journals from the enduring Atlantic Monthly and Harper's to the defunct Big Table and Transatlantic Review . All show Mr. Updike's wit and verbal felicity, his reverence for ordinary life, and his love of the transient world.


Author Notes

American novelist, poet, and critic John Updike was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on March 18, 1932. He received an A.B. degree from Harvard University, which he attended on a scholarship, in 1954. After graduation, he accepted a one-year fellowship to study painting at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England. After returning from England in 1955, he worked for two years on the staff of The New Yorker. This marked the beginning of a long relationship with the magazine, during which he has contributed numerous short stories, poems, and book reviews.

Although Updike's first published book was a collection of verse, The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures (1958), his renown as a writer is based on his fiction, beginning with The Poorhouse Fair (1959). During his lifetime, he wrote more than 50 books and primarily focused on middle-class America and their major concerns---marriage, divorce, religion, materialism, and sex. Among his best-known works are the Rabbit tetrology---Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981), and Rabbit at Rest (1988). Rabbit, Run introduces Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom as a 26-year-old salesman of dime-store gadgets trapped in an unhappy marriage in a dismal Pennsylvania town, looking back wistfully on his days as a high school basketball star. Rabbit Redux takes up the story 10 years later, and Rabbit's relationship with representative figures of the 1960s enables Updike to provide social commentary in a story marked by mellow wisdom and compassion in spite of some shocking jolts. In Rabbit Is Rich, Harry is comfortably middle-aged and complacent, and much of the book seems to satirize the country-club set and the swinging sexual/social life of Rabbit and his friends. Finally, in Rabbit at Rest, Harry arrives at the age where he must confront his mortality. Updike won the Pulitzer Prize for both Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest.

Updike's other novels range widely in subject and locale, from The Poorhouse Fair, about a home for the aged that seems to be a microcosm for society as a whole, through The Court (1978), about a revolution in Africa, to The Witches of Eastwick (1984), in which Updike tries to write from inside the sensibilities of three witches in contemporary New England. The Centaur (1963) is a subtle, complicated allegorical novel that won Updike the National Book Award in 1964. In addition to his novels, Updike also has written short stories, poems, critical essays, and reviews. Self-Consciousness (1989) is a memoir of his early life, his thoughts on issues such as the Vietnam War, and his attitude toward religion. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977. He died of lung cancer on January 27, 2009 at the age of 76.

(Bowker Author Biography) 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, & the Howells Medal.

(Publisher Provided) John Updike was born in 1932 and attended Harvard College and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England. Form 1955 to 1957 he was a staff member of The New Yorker, which he contributed numerous writings. Updike's art criticism has appeared in publications including Arts and Antiques, The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, and Realites, among many others. He is the author of such best-selling novels as Rabbit Run and Rabbit is Rich. His many works of fiction, poetry and criticism have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. For the past 40 years he has lived in Massachusetts.

(Publisher Provided) John Updike is the author of some 50 books, including collections of short stories, poems, & criticism. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, & the Howells Medal. Born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932, he has lived in Massachusetts since 1957.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

All Updike needs is the Nobel Prize to complete his list of major awards. In the very early years of his career, he seemed to spring full fledged as a short story writer, so he can hardly be said to have a body of apprentice work, to which this compilation of his early stories attests. They are mature pieces, and the collection contains several stories still considered masterpieces and which continue to appear in anthologies; these would include, of course, "A & P" and "Pigeon Feathers." What is particularly exciting to see is the publication again of his wonderful Olinger stories, particular favorites of Updike fans and, up to this point, out of print. The collection contains a grand total of 102 stories, and most were originally published in the New Yorker0 , Updike's basic professional residence during these years. But his New Yorker0 ties should not be considered a drawback to the enjoyment of his work, for his ingenuity, scope, and heart extend far beyond the island of Manhattan. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2003 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Starting with "Ace in the Hole," a student work: 103 great stories. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

You'll Never Know, Dear, How Much I Love You Carnival! In the vacant lot behind the old ice plant! Trucks have been unloading all afternoon; the WhirloGig has been unfolded like a giant umbrella, they assembled the baby Ferris wheel with an Erector Set. Twice the trucks got stuck in the mud. Straw has been strewn everywhere. They put up a stage and strung lights. Now, now, gather your pennies; supper is over and an hour of light is left in the long summer day. See, Sammy Hunnenhauser is running; Gloria Gring and her gang have been there all afternoon, they never go home, oh hurry, let me go; how awful it is to have parents that are poor, and slow, and sad! Fifty cents. The most Ben could beg. A nickel for every year of his life. It feels like plenty. Over the roof of crazy Mrs. Moffert's house, the Ferris wheel tints the air with pink, and the rim of this pink mixes in his excitement with the great notched rim of the coin sweating in his hand. This house, then this house, and past the ice plant, and he will be there. Already the rest of the world is there, he is the last, hurrying, hurrying, the balloon is about to take off, the Ferris wheel is lifting; only he will be left behind, on empty darkening streets. Then there, what to buy? There are not so many people here. Grownups carrying babies mosey glassily on the straw walks. All the booth people, not really Gypsies, stare at him, and beckon weakly. It hurts him to ignore the man with the three old softballs, and the old cripple at the merry-go-round, and the fat lady with her plaster Marys, and the skeleton suspended behind a fountain of popcorn. He feels his walking past them as pain. He wishes there were more people here; he feels a fool. All of this machinery assembled to extract from him his pathetic fifty cents. He watches at a distance a thickset man in earnestly rolled-up shirtsleeves twirl a great tinselled wheel with a rubber tongue that patters slower and slower on a circle of nails until it stops between two, and the number there wins. Only a sailor and two boys in yellow silk high-school athletic jackets play. None win. The thick tattooed arm below the rolled-up shirtsleeve carefully sweeps their nickels from a long board divided and numbered as if for hopscotch. The high-school boys, with sideburns and spotty whiskers on their bright-pink jaws, put down nickels again leadenly, and this time the man spinning the wheel shouts when it stops, seems more joyful than they, and reaches into his deep apron pocket and pours before them, without counting, a perfect little slipping stack of nickels. Their gums showing as if at a dirty joke, the two boys turn--the shimmer on their backs darts and shifts in cool z's--and walk away, while the man is shouting, "Hey, uh winneh. Hey, uh winneh, evvybody wins." His board is bare, and as his mouth continues to form the loud words his eyes lock Ben into a stare of heartbreaking brown blankness that seems to elucidate with paralyzing clarity Ben's state: his dungarees, his fifty cents, his ten years, his position in space, and above the particulars the immense tinted pity, the waste, of being at one little place instead of everywhere, at any time. Then the man looks away, and twirls the wheel for his own amusement. The fifty-cent piece feels huge to Ben's fingers, a wide oppressive rigidity that must be broken, shattered into twinkling fragments, to merge in the tinsel and splinters of strewn straw. He buys, at the first stand he strikes, a cone of cotton candy, and receives, with the furry pink pasty uncoiling thing, a quarter, a dime, and a nickel: three coins, tripling his wealth. Now people multiply, crowd in from the houses of the town, which stand beyond the lot on all sides in black forbidding silhouettes like the teeth of a saw. The lights go on; the faces of the houses flee. There is nothing in the lot but light, and at its core, on the stage, three girls wearing white cowboy hats and white spangled skirts and white boots appear, and a man also in white and bearing a white guitar strung with gold. The legs around Ben crush him toward the stage; the smell of mud mingles with the bright sight there. One of the girls coughs into the microphone and twists its neck, so a sharp whine pierces from the loudspeakers and cuts a great crescent through the crowd, leaving silence as harvest. The girls sing, toe-tapping gingerly: "The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamt I held you in my arms." The spangles on their swishing skirts spring prickles like tears in Ben's eyes. The three voices sob, catch, twang, distend his heart like a rubber band at the highest pitch of their plaint. "--I was mistaken, and I hung my head, a-and cried." And then the unbearable rising sugar of the chorus that makes his scalp so tight he fears his head will burst from sweet fullness. The girls go on to sing other songs, less good, and then they give way to a thin old man in suspenders and huge pants he keeps snapping and looking down and whooping into. He tells horrible jokes that make the nice fat ladies standing around Ben--nice fat factory and dust-mop women that make him feel protected--shake with laughter. He fears their quaking, feels threatened from beneath, as if there is a treacherous stratum under this mud and straw. He wanders away, to let the words of "You Are My Sunshine" revolve in his head. "Please don't take my sunshine away." Only the money in his pocket weighs him; get rid of it, and he will sail away like a dandelion seed. He goes to the booth where the wheel is turning, and puts his nickel on the board in a square marked 7, and loses it. He puts the dime there, and it too is taken away. Squeezed, almost hidden, between the crusty trousered haunches of two adults, he puts down his quarter, as they do, on the inner edge, to be changed. The tattooed man comes along, picking up the quarters and pouring, with his wonderfully automatic fingers, the little slipping stacks of five nickels; Ben holds his breath, and to his horror feels his low face catch in the corner of the man's absent-minded eyes. The thick solemn body snags in its smooth progress, and Ben's five nickels are raggedly spaced. Between the second and third there is a gap. A blush cakes Ben's cheeks; his gray-knuckled fingers, as they push out a nickel, are trembling sideways at each other. But the man goes back, and spins the wheel, and Ben loses three nickels one after another. The twittering wheel is a moon-faced god; but Ben feels humanity clouding the space between him and it, which should be unobstructed. When the tattooed arm--a blue fish, an anchor, the queer word peace--comes to sweep in his nickels, he feels the stippled skin breathing thought, and lowers his head against the expected fall of words. Nothing is said, the man moves on, returns to the wheel; but Ben feels puzzled pressure radiating from him, and the pointed eyes of a man in a suit with chalk stripes who has come to stand at the far side of the stand intersect this expanding circle, and Ben, hurrying to pour his money down a narrowing crack, puts down his last two nickels, still on 7. The rubber tongue leaps into pattering and as the wheel whirls the tattooed man leans backward to hear the one in chalk stripes talk; this one's tongue patters silently but a tiny motion of his smooth hand, simultaneous with a sideways stab of his eyes, is toward Ben. The rubber tongue slows, flops, stops at 7--no, 8. He lost, and can leave. The floor of his stomach lifts queerly. "Hey, kid." The man with terrible spoiled arms comes over. Ben feels that no matter how fast he would run those arms would stretch and snare him. "Huh?" "How old are you, kid?" "Ten." "Whatsamatta with ya, ya daddy rich?" A titter moves stiffly among the immense adult heads all around. Ben understands the familiar role, that he has undergone a hundred times with teachers and older boys, of being a comic prop. He understands everything, and wants to explain that he knows his eyes are moist and his cheeks red but that it's because of joy, freedom, not because of losing. But this would be too many words; even the one-word answer "No" sticks to the roof of his mouth and comes loose with a faint tearing noise. "Here." With his exciting expert touch, the tattooed man flicks Ben's two coins back across the painted number. Then he digs into his pocket. He comes up with the usual little stack of five, drops four, but holds the fifth delicately between the tips of two fingers and a thumb, hesitates so that Ben can reread peace in blue above his wrist, and then flips the fifth nickel up into his palm and thence down with a plunge into his dirty sagging apron pouch. "Now move away from the board, kid, move away. Don't come back." Ben fumbles the coins into his hands and pushes away, his eyes screwed to the sharp edge of painted wood, and he shoulders blindly backward through the legs. Yet all the time, in the midst of the heat and water welling up from springs all over his body, he is figuring, and calculates he's been gypped. Forty: he had the quarter and dime and nickel, and they gave him back only six nickels: thirty. The injustice. They pretend he's too little to lose and then keep a dime. The waste. The lost dime seems a tiny hole through which everything in existence is draining. As he moves away, his wet knees jarring, trying to hide forever from every sailor and fat woman and high-schooler who witnessed his disgrace, the six nickels make a knobbed weight bumping his thigh through his pocket. The spangles, the splinters of straw and strings of light, the sawtooth peaks of houses showing behind the heads of grown-ups moving above the scent of grassy mud are hung like the needles of a Christmas tree with the transparent, tinted globes confusing his eyelashes. Thus the world, like a jaded coquette, spurns our attempts to give ourselves to her wholly. Excerpted from The Early Stories, 1953-1975 by John Updike All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. xi
Olinger Stories
You'll Never Know, Dear, How Much I Love Youp. 3
The Alligatorsp. 7
Pigeon Feathersp. 13
Friends from Philadelphiap. 34
A Sense of Shelterp. 41
Flightp. 52
The Happiest I've Beenp. 67
The Persistence of Desirep. 81
The Blessed Man of Boston, My Grandmother's Thimble, and Fanning Islandp. 91
Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, a Dying Cat, a Traded Carp. 102
In Football Seasonp. 122
Out in the World
The Lucid Eye in Silver Townp. 129
The Kid's Whistlingp. 138
Ace in the Holep. 144
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and So Forthp. 152
The Christian Roommatesp. 161
Dentistry and Doubtp. 184
A Madmanp. 190
Still Lifep. 201
Homep. 214
Who Made Yellow Roses Yellow?p. 225
His Finest Hourp. 237
A Trillion Feet of Gasp. 248
Dear Alexandrosp. 257
The Doctor's Wifep. 261
At a Bar in Charlotte Amaliep. 269
Married Life
Toward Eveningp. 283
Snowing in Greenwich Villagep. 288
Sunday Teasingp. 296
Incestp. 303
A Gift from the Cityp. 315
Walter Briggsp. 334
The Crow in the Woodsp. 340
Should Wizard Hit Mommy?p. 344
Wife-Wooingp. 350
Unstuckp. 354
Giving Bloodp. 361
Twin Beds in Romep. 372
Marching through Bostonp. 380
Nakednessp. 389
Family Life
The Family Meadowp. 397
The Day of the Dying Rabbitp. 401
How to Love America and Leave It at the Same Timep. 411
The Music Schoolp. 416
Man and Daughter in the Coldp. 421
The Rescuep. 428
Plumbingp. 436
The Orphaned Swimming Poolp. 442
When Everyone Was Pregnantp. 446
Eros Rampantp. 451
Sublimatingp. 462
Nevadap. 470
The Gun Shopp. 480
Sonp. 491
Daughter, Last Glimpses ofp. 496
The Two Iseults
Solitairep. 505
Leavesp. 510
The Starep. 514
Museums and Womenp. 520
Avec la Bebe-Sitterp. 530
Four Sides of One Storyp. 537
The Morningp. 546
My Lover Has Dirty Fingernailsp. 552
Harv Is Plowing Nowp. 559
I Will Not Let Thee Go, Except Thou Bless Mep. 564
Tarbox Tales
The Indianp. 573
The Hilliesp. 579
The Tarbox Policep. 584
The Cornerp. 589
A & Pp. 596
Lifeguardp. 602
The Deaconp. 608
The Carol Singp. 614
The Taste of Metalp. 618
Your Lover Just Calledp. 623
Commercialp. 630
Minutes of the Last Meetingp. 636
Believersp. 640
Eclipsep. 645
Far Out
Archangelp. 649
The Darkp. 651
The Astronomerp. 656
The Witnessesp. 661
A Constellation of Eventsp. 666
Ethiopiap. 675
Transactionp. 682
Augustine's Concubinep. 702
During the Jurassicp. 708
Under the Microscopep. 713
The Balcuhitheriump. 716
The Invention of the Horse Collarp. 719
Jesus on Honshup. 723
The Slumpp. 727
The Sea's Green Samenessp. 730
The Single Life
The Bulgarian Poetessp. 737
The Hermitp. 751
I Am Dying, Egypt, Dyingp. 765
Separatingp. 788
Gesturingp. 799
Killingp. 810
Problemsp. 820
The Man Who Loved Extinct Mammalsp. 823
Love Song, for a Moog Synthesizerp. 829
Index of Titlesp. 835