Posts Tagged ‘John Updike’

_John_UpdikeSince John Updike’s death January 27, 2009, at the age of 76, there have been two titles published that were surely planned before his death. One is a collection of poetry Endpoint and Other Poems issued March 31st, and a collection of short stories My Father’s Tears issued June 2nd. I have not read the poetry collection but I have read the short stories.

My Father’s Tears is a masterfully written valedictory book for a man who wrote over sixty titles. A finer close to such an honored career can not be found. Individually, the stories are of a stride he could do without looking down or using a walking stick. The writing is lean, confident, and graceful. When read together each reinforces the one before and builds the one after and so on. They fit so well together they become a novel in all but form.

It would be wrong to call these stories autobiographical and incorrect to say they are not. The list of names for the aging male narrator reads like a list of old high school classmates robbed to give identity to his own story. There is a fierce commitment to truth, truth in living, and truth in facing death, however details are his stock in trade. After so many books, he probably couldn’t remember whether a place was one he created or is located somewhere in New England or is fractured across three states. For the man and the writer, divorces and love affairs begin to homogenize. Though the stories are smooth and easy to read, the truth in them has sharp edges and is scattered rather than stacked.

James, the narrator in the titular story, says, “I have never really left Pennsylvania, that is where the self I value is stored, no matter how infrequently I check on its condition.” The man could also write one hell of a good epitaph. Charles Marlin

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