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The Early Stories: 1953-1975 Paperback – September 28, 2004
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“[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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Top Customer Reviews
He always takes the difficult road. He doesn't simply have a husband cheat on his wife; instead, he has the husband worry that he will cheat on his wife, and then he considers the implications. I disagree with critics who accuse Updike of being unemotional. His stories are tangles of pure emotion.
My favorite story in the collection is "Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, A Dying Cat, A Traded Car." It's set up as a series of essays that eventually carry the reader into a story about the author's dying father. It feels like a compilation of random events until you get ot the last line, and then you realize that everything is connected, everything has a purpose. It may be the most beautiful ending I've ever read. (The second most beautiful ending is in "The Happiest I've Been.")
Updike is not for everyone. If you like simple, straightforward stories, read Tobias Wolff (he is amazing in a totally different way). But if you're interested in a world vivid with details--a world with no easy questions, let alone answers--try Updike.
One caveat: read slowly--the magic is more in the words than the paragraphs.
I think that it was a mistake to collect over 100 short stories under one cover with virtually no sieving. Updike made his living from writing and, and as far as I understand, he never held a regular job after he resigned from the New Yorker at the age of 25 - so I would be the last person to blame him for having published some short stories that were not quite to his general standard. When a small collection contains a couple of such works, this is usually not a problem. The situation inevitably becomes different on a scale of 100+ samples: the gap in quality between the best 10 and the weakest 10 of them is massive, and it is impossible not to notice this. I do not think that exposing his lesser works against the background of so many great stories found in this volume has done Updike's standing any good. I own virtually all collections of short stories ever published by him, and in my opinion he emerges a better author from each of his individual early collections than from this volume that combines their content.
I did not like the fact that while putting together this book Updike decided to change a few things here and there. In particular, the last sentence of the wonderful 'Dentistry and Doubt' is way too subtle in its revised version, and I suspect that some readers may now miss the whole point of the ending: I probably would, had I not read the story the way it was originally published.
Giving the hardback a deckle edge was a bad idea.Read more ›
The Early Stories is a testament to and a forum examining the fiction side of Mr. Updike's talents, including every short story (every one!) he ever published up until 1975, when he was 43 years old. This book is more than 800 pages long, and so I assume that the post-1975 stories were held out both in order to make sure the book could be lifted without strain or (more likely) as the stuff for a second mammoth volume of this great writer's work.
Most of us already know at least a few of the 102 stories in this thick book (I read one, "A & P," when I was in high school, long before I became a fan of Mr. Updike's work, and I didn't even realize he had been the author of it until I saw it again here), and many of the ones we don't know will reveal themselves as gems. But also -- fortunately or unfortunately -- many of the stories here simply don't work: the plots are either dated, or the characters or their motivations are too thin.
Curiously, I am unsure about whether this is positive or negative. I dismiss the possibility that the uneven quality here is natural when examining the work of a young writer not yet fully in control of his powers. After all, Mr. Updike had already created his two most memorable characters -- Rabbit Angstrom and Henry Bech (who appears in this book) -- before most of these stories came to life.
Instead, I see this as welcome proof that Mr. Updike is human, that he doesn't produce something awe inspiring every time his pen touches paper.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've searched for an anthology of Updike's early works for a long time. It is a resource for anyone interested in Updike's work, prior to the Rabbit Run novels.Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
Early writing while Updike was still in his twenties. Clean, simple style but deceptive in its emotional punch. In many ways, less tedious than some of his novels. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Eileen Crivelli
Second to Phillip Roth but worth every second spent on his body of work.Published 10 months ago by Richard L. Nachman
Wonderful collection to have handy when you have 15 minutes and want to read a great short story.Published 17 months ago by MBR
Rereading Updike has reminded me of his many virtues, and left me awestruck with the willingness of U and his family to allow their souls to be bared. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Generic Personage
I replaced all my tattered seventies paperbacks of treasured early Updike stories with this lovely volume, and I am so pleased to have it. Read morePublished 23 months ago by elizabeth w. dean