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My Father's Tears and Other Stories Hardcover – June 2, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307271560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307271563
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #705,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Updike compresses the strata of a life in his delicately rendered, tremendously moving posthumous collection. In Free, the memory of a life-affirming affair buckles against a man's loyalty to his deceased wife: he recognizes that becoming a well-bred stick offers more consolation in old age than the sluggish arousal of his sensuality. In The Accelerating Expansion of the Universe, the retired protagonist, depressed by what he perceives as the universe's indifference to human affairs, is done in by the accumulated detritus of his life. Many characters are haunted by a sense of isolation, such as the protagonist of Personal Archaeology, who roams his Massachusetts estate, searching for traces of previous ownership while sifting through his own petty contribution, or the emotionally stranded absentee landlord of an Alton, Pa., family farm in The Road Home, who returns after 50 years and finds himself lost in his hometown. From Kinderszenen, which depicts the anxious time of smalltown late 1930s, to Varieties of Religious Experience, in which a grandfather watches the twin towers fall, time ushers in brutal changes. With masterly assurance, Updike transforms the familiar into the mysterious. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. In the title story of this miraculous final collection, the aging narrator admits, "I have never really left Pennsylvania, that is where the self I value is stored, no matter how infrequently I check on its condition." Most of these stories evoke Updike's Olinger and environs at least in passing, nicely complementing the 2003 retrospective collection The Early Stories, 1953–1975, with its tantalizing hints of autobiography. In "Personal Archaeology," a restless retiree uncovers several distinct strata of rusty junk on his small piece of suburban land and realizes that his own lost golf balls will form yet another such layer. In "The Full Glass," an elderly man takes pride in his efficient bedroom routines, such as filling a glass with water before opening the pill bottles. In "Free," a recent widower starts to miss the wife from whom he had longed to escape. A few of the stories take place at high school reunions, where conversations resume midstream after 50 years. Like his ancient characters, Updike rambles on at times, but no one will complain. Recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/09.]—Edward B. St John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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.

Customer Reviews

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This collection of John Updike's short stories makes for a delightful read.
Patricia W. Hays
Much as some have criticized that aspect of Updike's writing, I personally believe it lends to his stories and novels an unmistakeable aura of authenticity.
Van Isle Rev
I honestly can't wait to read some more and recommend this particular book highly indeed.
Spider Monkey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
MY FATHER'S TEARS is the last in a sterling lineup of stories from the master storyteller John Updike, who passed away in January 2009. With 18 tales in all, the book has a wide range of characters, themes, times and settings. But all of them have a common thread --- that of delving into the human spirit and capturing the emotion of the moment. And they were previously published in various magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's and The New Yorker.

Most of the main characters are male, but there are some of the female persuasion. Themes include aging, reminiscing, love lost and religion, among others. Times range from the Depression era to that of the modern-day world. Updike uses some fictional places in Pennsylvania to mirror those of his hometown of Shillington. The settings also include the state of Florida and such exotic locales as India, Spain, Italy and Morocco

The first story, titled "Morocco," takes place in that country and is based on a true story from events that occurred there in 1969. "The Walk with Elizanne" revolves around a high school reunion where two former high school sweethearts meet up after 50 years. A young child is the main character of three entries: "The Guardians," "The Laughter of the Gods" and "Kinderszenen." Love and its imperfections are the themes of "Free," "Delicate Wives," "The Apparition," and "Outage."

An interesting and sobering piece, "Variations of Religious Experience," explores the concept of religion and how it affects our thoughts and actions.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Edward Aycock on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm more of a fan of Updike's short stories than his novels so "My Father's Tears" is tailor made for me.

Updike's last three published works- the novel "The Widows of Eastwick," his collection of poems "Endpoint" and this short story collection- all have the air of finality to them. They were musings on growing older, losing friends and coming to the end of one's life journey. But rather than being depressing, they are melancholy without being maudlin.

"My Father's Tears" is, with the exception of the first story, a collection of tales published after 2000. "Morocco," first published in the 70s, is a travelogue of the small, but not catastrophic, pitfalls that befall a family as they travel in a foreign land. The book then fast forwards through the decades; the characters in these late tales are trapped by their own personal histories, facing the dilemma that occurs when they realize that there isn't much more time ahead of them and the past weighs them down even though they realize it's futile to mourn the mistakes they once made.

One of my favorite tales in this collection is "Personal Archaeology," which manages to be affecting and sad while making me realize that once we're gone, things just continue. "My Father's Tears" is a great final story collection. I feel guilty for wanting anything more from Updike as he was more than prolific in his long career. RIP.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I found this work a more deeply moving one than many other Updike works I have read. Updike is always the supreme artistic craftsman, the master of the precise observation, the surprising definition of a familiar reality which throws it into a new light. He is the master of description of the mundane world. And his capacity for creating beauty in incredibly complex sentences is perhaps unmatched by any other contemporary writer.

Yet in all his detailings of small- town everyday life, and all his chroniclings of the passions of his always strongly individuated characters there has seemed to me a level of feeling missing, which made me less than fully `sympathetic' to his work.

In these stories however which focus on aging and death, memory and its connecting together of various stages of life a certain poignancy enters which I anyway, did not feel before. Strangely it is less for the fictional characters themselves , so many of whom are essentially altar egos of Updike, than it is for the figure of the master - maker Updike himself.

For in this set of stories there often seems an even closer than ordinary connection between the writer's own personal experience and the fictional work he makes of it. Surely the title story `My Father's Tears' which describes the one time the protagonist has seen his father cry echoes Updike's own life- experience His father cried for the son moving away from him into other worlds he will not understand. The end of the story will have the son unable to cry at the news of his father's death, as his father's tears have `used up' his own.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dai-keag-ity on March 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If The Afterlife (the mid-1990s collection which was my introduction to him) was John Updike's thesis on old age, then My Father's Tears is his dissertation.

While themes of autobiography, old age, of looking back at youth and the times and places of its setting (with either sentiment or anguished hyper-comprehension) punctuate these stories, I found them both meaningful and less dismal than it seems so many others do. Travel stories leaven the book and are a nice accompaniment to heftier fare, with India, Spain and Morocco visited among other locales. The title tale and Personal Archaeology are the two best pieces in the book, with the latter story being as good as anything Updike ever penned. (Living as I do in a nearly ninety-year-old house surrounded by "artifacts" of past occupants, many of them bearing a family origin, Personal Archaeology struck me in a very confronting way, and skillfully speaks of the push of time against us all, those alive now and those who came before us. I read the story twice, the second time immediately after the first.)

While charges that "Updike repeated themes in My Father's Tears" have validity, the short stories in this collection also present us with a clear window into their author's mindset in the final decade of his life, and in so doing grant us his wisdom. My Father's Tears is an anthology that possesses a weight that presses in against the spirit of a reader in such a way that these are often anything but simple (or at times enjoyable) reads, but in their complexity, their honesty, their creator's telepathic mastery at transforming thought to word, they bestow much on those who make time to give them the understanding they deserve.
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