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Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, "Rabbit Remembered" Paperback – November 27, 2001

Book 5 of 5 in the Rabbit Series

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (November 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345442016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345442017
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #864,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

If John Updike had never published anything but short stories--if the novels, essays, verse, and reams of occasional prose vanished into thin air--he would still be a presence to reckon with in American letters. Having said that, it's only fair to point out that his 13th collection, Licks of Love, is one of the master's patchier efforts. He has lost none of his notorious fluency, and even the duds are enlivened by lovely stabs of perception. But in several tales ("The Women Who Got Away," "New York Girl," "Natural Color"), Updike seems perversely bent on proving his detractors right, serving up familiar narratives of adultery and '60s-era swinging. There's no reason why lust and rage shouldn't dance attendance on this randy genius's old age. But he's already written about the art of extracurricular canoodling at such length that these entries are bound to seem like retreads.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the rest of the collection is a sheer delight. "My Father on the Verge of Disgrace" explores some fascinating Oedipal outskirts, even as the narrator's first cigarette takes on a theological accent: "It was my way of becoming a human being, and part of being human is being on the verge of disgrace." In "How Was It, Really?" Updike unveils the real dirty secret of old age, which is not the persistence of erotic appetite but the inevitable, appalling failure of memory. Best of all, he returns to two of his longest-running franchises, with admirable results in both cases. "His Oeuvre" revives that Semitic doppelgänger Henry Bech for one more lap around the track, and finds the author making intermittent fun of his own fancy prose style. Harry Angstrom is, needless to say, beyond hope of resurrection. But in a 182-page novella, "Rabbit Remembered," Updike brings back his survivors for a superb, surprising curtain call. The author's present-tense notation of American life (whose paradoxical epicenter is, as always, Brewer, Pennsylvania) remains as mesmerizing as ever. And despite his death, the putative hero is everywhere, as his illegitimate daughter returns to the unwilling bosom of the Angstrom clan: "A whiff of Harry, a pale glow, an unsettling drift comes off this girl, this thirty-nine-year-old piece of evidence." Wallowing in this unexpected bonus, Updike fans should steel themselves for a single pang of regret: this is likely to be the last Rabbit he will pull from his hat. --James Marcus --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom has been dead for a decade in Rabbit Remembered, the novella that closes this latest, richly evocative Updike collection. His widow, Janice, is married to Ronnie Harrison, the widower of Thelma, with whom Harry had a long-time liaison. His son Nelson's wife, Pru, whom Harry also briefly bedded, has left Nelson, who has kicked the coke habit and still lives in the old Springer house with Janice and Ronnie. The past surfaces unexpectedly when Annabelle Byers, Harry's illegitimate daughter, makes herself known to the family. The ramifications of Harry's legacy include a strained Thanksgiving dinner that degenerates into political argument and acrimonious insults, and a mordantly funny flashback to a scene in which Harry's cremated remains were inadvertently left on a closet shelf in a Comfort Inn. While Updike explores the dark territory of bitterness, resentment and guilt, he also includes his trademark ticker-tape of current events (Hillary's candidacy, etc.), a typically muddled millennium New Year's Eve and a surprisingly upbeat denouement. For Rabbit fans, this is a must-read. In addition, the 12 short stories collected here present a kaleidoscope of Updike settings and themes. One element is common to nearly all the tales: the protagonist is a libidinous married man, ever on the lookout for adulterous adventures. In all of them, nostalgia is pierced with insight and regret. This is a treasury of Updike's craft, each story a small gem. 60,000 first printing; first serial to the New Yorker. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

It appears that Updike needs a little longer set up to really get a plot in motion.
Jay Winters
I have been a John Updike fan since reading the RABBIT novels in the mid-90s and have recently been going back to the short stories.
Stacy Helton
If you want to be touched by love and feel its power, buy this book, read this book and cherish this book.
Eustacia Vye

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Paul McGrath on February 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Tom Wolfe recently said of John Updike that he knew that there were 275 million people living in the United States, and that he didn't believe there was a one of them who was looking forward to a new John Updike novel. To this I would say he is only about half right. I would agree that news of the first half of this book, the short story collection, left me mostly unmoved. But I can guarantee you that I, along with dozens of other people I'm sure, was delighted to see yet another installment in the Rabbit series, and scooped it up eagerly.

It doesn't disappoint. Of course, everybody familiar with the series knows that Rabbit died a long time ago, but contained in here are all of the other familiar faces: Janice, now married to Ronnie Harrison; Nelson, separated; Pru; Billy Fosnacht; and Annabelle Byer, the mover and shaker of the plot this time around. Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom's presence, though, looms over all, figuratively, and eventually as we shall see, literally.

Yes, as the lion is noted for his ferocity, the elephant for his size, and the giraffe for his height, the Rabbit is known for, well, what rabbits are known for. I don't believe I've ever seen this pointed out in any reviews of these books that I have read, and am at a loss to explain why. (I apologize if I have missed something.) Even Mr. Updike seems to be curious about this, throwing us a not so subtle hint in this one.

Think about it: in the first book he cheats on Janice, and indirectly causes the death of his daughter. In the second book, he is separated from Janice, but cheats on his girlfriend, and while gone she is killed in a fire. In the third one, he is prevented from consumating his lust (by Nelson, no less, hilariously), and nobody dies.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dave Deubler on May 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
When future historians try to understand the Sexual Revolution of the latter twentieth century, they will probably find no more useful documents than the fiction of John Updike, whose obsession with sex, particularly the adulterous variety, is unparalleled in modern literature. In Updike's world, pick any four couples and you've got yourself seven adulterers and one weirdo - quite a different Pennsylvania from the one this reviewer lives in.

In this mixed volume of fiction, "The Women Who Got Away", "New York Girl", "Natural Color", the Bech story "His Oeuvre" and the surprising "Scene From the Fifties" all revolve around marital infidelity and the burgeoning sexual revolution. Updike's obsession with adultery leads one to suspect that the writer suffered from post-coital remorse, and tried to come to grips with his own indiscretions by implying that they are symptomatic of the culture, and so not really his fault. The stories invariably show how tawdry these encounters are, how irresponsible he recognizes them to be, and how paranoid the perpetrators become, all to convince someone (His family? His mistress? His readers? His Maker?) that it really wasn't all that much fun. "Let me off easy," he seems to be saying, "I've already suffered enough."

"Rabbit Remembered" is the real class of this collection, and a worthy capstone to the Rabbit series, but readers unfamiliar with the four novels preceding shouldn't expect to get much out of it. Recapitulations of the events from the prior novels are often pretty brief, giving the barest review of the facts and skipping all the emotional fallout.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Eustacia Vye on November 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Licks of Love is worth buying just for the novella featuring our old favorite hero Rabbit Angstrom...however, in addition to Rabbit, this book contains marvelous short stories by the wonderful John Updike. There is a delcious story about a one night stand and a gorgeous one about cats! If you want to be touched by love and feel its power, buy this book, read this book and cherish this book. God bless John Updike!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In Licks of Love, Updike fires off one of the ''Rabbit'' stories he dreams up every decade or so. The 182 page ''Rabbit Remembered'' tries to work both sides of the street, to document the dying months of the '90s while conjuring the spirit of a hopeless narcissist.
Forty years ago, ''Rabbit, Run'' introduced Harry ''Rabbit'' Angstrom, the rangy, aimless middle American who'd go on to star in three further novels. Harry died in 1990's ''Rabbit at Rest,'' and ''Rabbit Remembered,'' a tail to the tale, looks at what was left in his wake.
A doorbell hoarsely rings in Brewer, Pa., and Janice Harrison, Harry's remarried widow, is staring across her doorstep at a somewhat sluttish looking nurse named Annabelle Byer, the product of an affair Rabbit had way back when. In his typically crystalline prose, Updike describes how Janice sizes up the girl and her motives and how she mulls over lost time while scooting about town in her black LeBaron convertible.
Janice's ex- cokehead son, Nelson, is now a 42 year old mental health counselor divorced from his wife and living at home. He takes a shine to his half sister that's both fraternal and not a little incestuous. Nothing much happens, but by the holidays, fragments of families are meeting up and falling apart and piecing themselves -- and thus Rabbit -- together again.
Throughout, people take in the noise of the age: impeachment, ''American Beauty,'' the Y2K bug, the new VW bug.... And Updike seems particularly hung up on tongue studs.
There are a dozen short stories in ''Licks of Love'' too; most are not just short but small, and they're all pointed in the same direction as the main event anyway -- toward past books and ancient desires.
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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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