Cover image for Assorted prose
Assorted prose
Updike, John.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.

Physical Description:
xii, 326 pages ; 21 cm
The American man: what of him? -- Anywhere is where you hang your hat -- What is a rhyme? -- Drinking from a cup made cinchy -- On the sidewalk -- Why Robert Frost should receive the Nobel Prize -- Confessions of a wild bore -- The unread book route -- Alphonse Peintre -- Mr. Ex-resident -- Central Park -- No dodo -- Voices in the Biltmore -- Our own Baedeker -- Postal complaints -- Old and precious -- Spatial remarks -- Dinosaur egg -- Upright carpentry -- Crush vs. whip -- Métro gate -- Cancelled -- Morality play -- Obfuscating coverage -- Bryant Park -- John Marquand -- Two heroes -- Doomsday, Mass. -- Grandma Moses -- Spring rain -- Eisenhower's eloquence -- Mostly glass -- Three documents -- Free bee-hours -- Beer can -- Modern art -- The assassination -- T.S. Eliot -- The dogwood tree: a boyhood -- The lucid eye in silver town -- My uncle's death -- Outing: a family anecdote -- Mea culpa: a travel note -- Eclipse -- Poetry from downtroddendom -- Snow from a dead sky -- Franny and Zooey -- Credos and curios -- Beerbohm and others -- Rhyming Max -- No use talking -- Stuffed fox -- Honest horn -- Faith in search of understanding -- Tillich -- More love in the western world -- A foreword for young readers -- Creatures of the air -- Between a wedding and a funeral -- How how it is was -- Grandmaster Nabokov.
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Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3541.P47 A16 1965C Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



John Updike, known for his fiction and poetry, has assembled a motely but not unshapely collection of assorted non-fictional prose written during the last ten years.

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)



Parodies   THE AMERICAN MAN: WHAT OF HIM?   (An Editorial Left Out of Life's Special 35¢ Issue: "The American Woman")   EVER SINCE the history-dimmed day when Christopher Columbus, a Genoese male, turned his three ships (Niña, Pinta, Santa María) toward the United States, men have also played a significant part in the development of our nation. Lord Baltimore, who founded the colony of Maryland for Roman Catholics driven by political persecution from Europe's centuries-old shores, was a man. So was Wyatt Earp, who brought Anglo-Saxon common law into a vast area then in the grip of a potpourri of retributive justice, "vigilantism," and the ancient Code Napoléon. Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth Chief Executive, was male. The list could be extended indefinitely.   Things were not always easy for the American Man. He came here in his water-weathered ships and did not find broad thruways, "cloud-capped towers," and a ready-made Free Way of LIFE. No, what he found confronting him in this fabled New Land was, principally, trees. Virgin, deciduous, hundreds of feet taller than he, the trees of the Colonization left their scars on his mental makeup in the form of the high rates of alcoholism, suicide, and divorce that distinguish him from the men of Continental Europe or Australasia. While his brethren of the Old World were dandling perfumed coquettes on their silk-garbed knees, he was forging inward, across the Appalachians to the Great Prairie, where his woods-tested faith, tempered in the forge of Valley Forge and honed on the heights of Montcalm's Quebec, took on a new austerity and became Evangelical Methodism. The Chevaliers of France didn't give him pause, nor the wetbacks of Mexico. But he did not emerge on the spray-moistened cliffs of California the same man who sailed from Southampton, Brussels, or Rügen. As Robert Frost says, in his quietly affirmative lines:   The land was ours before we were the land's.... Possessing what we still were unpossessed by, Possessed by what we now no more possessed.   What is it that distinguishes the American Man from his counterparts in other climes; what is it that makes him so special? He is religious. He is quietly affirmative. He is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. He carries his burdens lightly, his blessings responsibly. Unlike the Oriental mandarin, he shaves his upper lip. Nor does he let his fingernails grow. Unlike the men of England, he does not wear gloves. Generally, he is taller than the men of nations (e.g., Nepal, Switzerland) where the average height is, compared to ours, laughable. All over the world, coolies and fakirs are picking themselves up out of the age-old mire and asking, "How can we become like Yanqui men?" Our State Department, cleansed of intellectual southpaws, works night and day on the answer.   The American Man has his faults, too. He loves speed. Is speed, in every case, desirable, per se? The editors, no strangers to speed themselves, wonder, for "the race is not [always] to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." The American Man tends to swagger--understandably. He enjoys bowling. He spends more money on bowling each year than the entire income of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg since the Hapsburgs. Our critics in India, perhaps with justice, lift their eyebrows at this. But he is big, big--a big man--and he does things in a big way. He smokes too much and laughs too hard. The popcorn alone that he devours every year would outweigh Mont Blanc. He has more insidious shortcomings, too, but space limitations preclude our listing them.   He can look back over a hundred and eighty years of steady betterment with forward-looking pride. Today, men are active in every walk of LIFE. Politics: Several of our ablest senators are male, and men like John Foster Dulles, Charles Wilson, and Dwight David Eisenhower figure prominently in Washington's innermost councils. Religion: Reinhold Niebuhr has just this year delivered a sermon. Industry: Men are infiltrating the top levels of management, and already dominate such diverse fields as structural engineering, anthracite development, track and field events, and fire control. The Arts:   Individual men like Herman Wouk and Archibald MacLeish have authored works in every way comparable to the best of Willa Cather or Mary Roberts Rinehart, the Queen of American Mystery Fiction.   The American Man can be proud of his sex. In the home, though still docile, he cunningly gets his way. In the community, he is a model for all young boys, as to what manhood means. In the state, he pays income tax or sales tax, depending. In the nation, he makes up only slightly less than half the population. Perhaps most importantly, he has solved the millennia-old riddle of the sage:   What is Man, that Thou art mindful of him?   ANYWHERE IS WHERE YOU HANG YOUR HAT   MAY 18, 19--   DEAR MR. SMITH: "Howdy." Guess you think this is peculiar, my writing you this letter when we live in adjacent postal zones, with only the Everyman General Merchandise Store and the All Souls' Non-Denominational Church and the width of State Street separating us. But what with no mail coming in to Anywhere from the outside (except in December for Santa Claus), John Postmaster, our postmaster, is grateful for whatever jobs we can give him.   Well, the point is (1) to welcome you to Anywhere, the only town in the U.S.A. located on both the Continental Divide and the Mason-Dixon Line, and (2) to get acquainted, which is only natural, since between the Joneses and the Smiths most of the local population is accounted for, and we better make the best of it, or there won't be no peace for anyone. (joke).   We think of ourselves in these parts as pretty average American. There's one industry on the east side, Acme Mfg., owned by A. Employer, and some foreign element work there, but by and large the fertile prairie all around keeps us white Protestants going. Since we aren't located in any state, we're pretty dependent on federal aid, and as a result the school is poor and the streets full of potholes and like the District of Columbia we can't vote in national elections, but when you average it out each family has an income of $5,520 and 1.3 children, so we can't kick. My own guess is you'll like it fine here. The "Life" photographers come around pretty often so it isn't as dull as it could be.   Well I've just about filled two sides of my medium-wt. stationery, so I'd better say what I have to say, which is, "Come over sometime and let's get acquainted." All of the houses on Main St. are numbered 25, or 1, or 77, or something memorable, so my address won't help you much, but mine is the big rambling house with the shady old elm out in front and the white picket fence.   Best & again "welcome" Ralph C. Jones   (Of the ensuing correspondence only the letters received by Smith, a shy, methodical man forever making small bundles of his private papers, have been preserved. We may presume that Smith's replies were, like his person, colorless.)   MAY 30, 19--   DEAR HENRY, Rcd. yr. letter and enjoyed same v. much. That was quite a misadventure you had. I should have specified, I guess, that mine was the big rambling house with the old elm and picket fence and the porch swing out front. The people you blundered in on, to hear it from the neighbors, were the Does. Nice folks, pretty typical of what you'll meet around here, when you're better accepted. John does "clerical work" for Acme, and his wife Mary used to sell linen goods for the Ajax Dept. Store when she married him. She was far along in her 20s when that luckily happened. He's a conscientious citizen, always filling out income tax forms and money orders and loan applications to show others how it's done. They go to about a movie a week and have dinner out once a month. You probably noticed another woman, bony and slow-moving like John, with the throaty Doe laugh. That was his sister Miss Jane J. Being a spinster doesn't seem to bother her much, I mean very much. She teaches third grade and has Social Security No. 000-00-0000. They let her stay in two tiny rooms over in the west wing.   Depending on how long you made your welcome last, you probably noticed when the two Does get to laughing throatily together Mary looks a little anxious, her eyes shuttling from one to another and her teeth nibbling her lower lip. We always thought that maybe if Mary did something different with her mouth, but I guess the truth is her face is one of those clean wide-browed ones that all along the line--childhood, adolescence, young womanhood, and now what they call for politeness maturity--just miss being pretty. Most of us have known little Mary ever since her first Sunday school dress. Her maiden name was Smith, like yours. Maybe she's a relation. In which case you'll probably be as concerned as the rest of us with her happiness. Not to imply it doesn't suit her to a "T," to have John's fond sister Jane living with them.   Well at any rate you'd know best since you've been in the house most recently. John is all right without being the friendliest. Let's you and I meet sometime and talk it out. Since you don't know your way around yet, I suggest some place in downtown Anywhere.   See you then, Ralph Jones   Excerpted from Assorted Prose 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.