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Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism [Kindle Edition]

John Updike , Christopher Carduff
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $20.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Here is the collection of nonfiction pieces that John Updike was compiling when he died in January 2009. It opens with a self-portrait of the writer in winter, a Prospero who, though he fears his most dazzling performances are behind him, reveals himself in every sentence to be in deep conversation with the sources of his magic. It concludes with a moving meditation on a world without religion, without art, and on the difficulties of faith in a disbelieving age. In between are pieces on Peanuts, Mars, and the songs of Cole Porter, a pageant of scenes from early Massachusetts, and a good deal of Updikean table talk. At the heart of the volume are dozens of book reviews from The New Yorker and illustrated art writings from The New York Review of Books. Updike’s criticism is gossip of the highest sort. We will not hear the likes of it again.

Editorial Reviews


“For my money . . . the late John Updike was the best American belletrist ever, and Higher Gossip . . . confirms everything I’ve believed about his brilliance, his versatility, and his depth.”—Larry McMurty, Harper’s
“As [Higher Gossip] reminds us, Updike was that rare creature: an all-around man of letters, a literary decathlete who brought to his criticism an insider’s understanding of craft and technique; a first-class appreciator of talent, capable of describing other artists’ work with nimble, pictorial brilliance; an ebullient observer, who could bring to essays about dinosaurs or golf or even the theory of relativity a contagious, boyish sense of wonder.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A timely reminder of the graceful companionship that Updike offered to his readers—a presence that will be sorely missed.”—The Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

John Updike was the author of more than sixty books, including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His novels have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hugging the Shore, an earlier collection of essays and reviews, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He died in January 2009.
Christopher Carduff, the editor of this volume, is a member of the staff of The Library of America.

Product Details

  • File Size: 6333 KB
  • Print Length: 529 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004SOU6LW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,976 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another chance to revel in Updike's genius December 6, 2011
If you are among the legions who paused in January 2009 to mourn John Updike passing, then Higher Gossip, a posthumous collection of essays, reviews, poems, and other writings, will make you cry all over again. While the title refers to an Updike quote regarding book reviews, this volume demonstrates that being one of America's greatest post-war novelists and short story writers was only part of his great talents. Indeed, when Updike died America lost one of its great - and most prolific - public intellectuals.

Like a broken pinata, what pours of this volume is a bounty of surprising delights. For example, you might expect to read Updike on Fitzgerald, Carver, or Nabokov (which are just a few among those dealing with authors), but his brief piece on Kierkegaard offers a slit window into the author's spiritual side. Almost 150 pages of reviews and meditations on art exhibitions and artists further speaks to his wide interests. Several previously uncollected poems similarly delight, as does a section titled "Pet Topics" which includes considerations on subjects ranging from Albert Einstein, to dinosaurs, to Updike's devotion to golf. Added into this thrilling mix are talks on varied topics (one on humor in fiction stands out as particularly fine), as well as Updike's introductions to some later editions of his own work.

As often as not, when volumes such as this appear after a great writer death, one receives a hastily collected hodgepodge of works of varying quality and importance. Christopher Carduff, the editor of this book, is therefore deserving of much praise for creating something which Updike lovers will surely treasure. Instead of reading it in one sitting, consider imbibing these pieces a little bit at a time; give yourself a chance to savor the unique genius that was John Updike.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an honorable mention April 26, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Higher Gossip joins john updike's other volumes of essays and reviews in my collection of books, as one among the others I'll open when interested in his opinion on an author, when i'm in the mood to spend time perusing the works of an artist seen and discussed by mr updike in an article, or when i'm just looking to pick up a piece of good prose to read.

in his Forward to The Early Stories: 1953 - 1975, found here, john updike wrote: A selection, surely, is best left to others, when the writer is no longer alive to obstruct the process.' i gratefully accept this suggestion as his invitation to read Higher Gossip not as a collection but as a selection of delights to be savored over time.

Updike did have plans for another volume of essays and criticism from work he collected in a three shirt boxes placed inside a carton which, after his death, arrived in book form as Higher Gossip under the editorship of christopher carduff. along with selections from the boxes, carduff tracked down fugitive pieces; in all, the writings here, including poems and a few short stories, span in years from a `comment solicited by the Times Literary Supplement' in 1964 to articles published in The National Geographic Magazine, one of them on dinosaurs, in 2007 and 2008.

nearly a third of the volume is comprised of writings on gallery art. two hundred and fifty pages of text discussing paintings, drawings, and photographs the majority of them not included here, is a lot to ask even the most ardent fan of updike and appreciator of art to make do with merely a few photos in black and white copy. no one should read the art pieces straight through; they are best enjoyed at leisure, with computer as companion piece to linger over the artist discussed while reading updike's text.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for this sentence alone December 25, 2011
From a review of The Defense:

"And indeed this novel, Nabokov's third, shows him--after the youthful and wistful novella Mary and the rather bleak manipulations of King, Queen, Knave--entering into his full poetic birthright, that vision which violently combines an ardent nostalgia with an aloof ingenuity, a pale fire of the intellect with an appetite for particulars so fierce and intimate that nearly every sentence has a twist of extra animation."

And there's plenty more of such miracles of observation and expression in the book's 480 pages. Read it and weep.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Updike, the consummate intellectual November 28, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love John Updike's fiction, and I had just completed a wonderful collection of his short stories called "My Father's Tears." I find "Higher Gossip" to be a wonderful collection too, but the five stars I give it is due solely to Updike's genius as a writer and not on my comprehension as a reader. This collection of essays and criticism, interspersed with pieces of memoir, poetry, and fiction, was being assembled by Updike at the time of his death. One who is well-versed in literature and art will feel a kinship with this writing that perhaps the average reader, like myself, may lack. However, though I find some of the subject matter of this volume to be intimidating, I intend to forge ahead, hoping to assimilate some small piece of the vast banquet of erudition that John Updike sets before us. I started with his review of David Michaelis' biography of the cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts cartoons, and then found the strength to move into less familiar territory. I'm glad that I purchased the book. It deserves slow and careful reading.
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More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. 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, and since 1957 lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. A previous collection of essays, Hugging the Shore, received the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. John Updike died on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

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