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The Early Stories: 1953-1975


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About the Author

John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.


All of Updike's retrospective collections are huge, as if nothing could be discarded, and this one is no exception. The title is somewhat misleading. "Early stories" suggests juvenilia or apprentice work, but Updike's famously elegant and evocative prose style apparently emerged full blown with his first New Yorker publication. A more accurate title would be Classic Updike. Most of Updike's best-known stories are here, including "Pigeon Feathers," "The Family Meadow," "Separating," and "The Witnesses." The book opens with the Pennsylvania-based Olinger stories, moves through the anguished Maples saga of marital dysfunction in suburban Tarbox, and concludes with studies of the single life, including "The Bulgarian Poetess," featuring Updike's alter ego, Henry Bech. Stories that originally aimed at slice-of-life immediacy now appear as exquisite genre paintings of a lost America, thanks in part to Updike's strong visual sense. This wonderful collection is arguably the best single-volume introduction to Updike's work available. Highly recommended for all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/03.]-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Classic gems . . . These stories, like Mr. Updike's finest novels . . . preserve a time and a place through the sorcery of words."--The New York Times

"[Updike is] akin to Coleridge and Shelley, only with an American twist. One story at a time, he [reminds] Americans that in spite of life's largesse, things fail; one sentence at a time, he reveals that through the small details, it can be sublime."--The Denver Post "Updike's artistry--normally glimpsed in sections, like a person through window slats--is wholly and deeply seen. . . . One reads through the plenitude with delight, expectation, and at all times gratitude."--The Atlantic Monthly

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