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The Poorhouse Fair: A Novel Paperback – March 13, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345468236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345468239
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,237,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A first novel of rare precision and real merit . . . a rich poorhouse indeed.”—Newsweek
 “Turning on a narrow plot of ground, it achieves the rarity of bounded, native truth, and comes forth as microcosm.”—Commonweal
“Brilliant . . . Here is the conflict of real ideas; of real personalities; here is a work of intellectual imagination and great charity. The Poorhouse Fair is a work of art.”—The New York Times Book Review

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6 1-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Philip Albinus on November 19, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
No, just kidding. I don't hate him; I'm thankful that he's still with us and sharing his words.
In his first novel, we see John Updike about to bloom unto a wonderful writer and most of his themes are here in this slim book: growing old, facing death, thinking about Man and God. I should be able to delve deeper into the themes but I don't read for grand themes, frankly. I read Saul Bellow for the comedy of intellectuals struggling with daily life; I read Iris Murdoch to be among smart folks who seem so damned dumb; and I read Philip Roth for the jolt of the smut from people who should be nicer and holier. That said, I read Updike for the gorgeous language and his mission to catalog the world he sees, like some monk on a mission. Nature is gift to show us how small we are and Updike is here to record everything that catches his gleeming eye.
'The Poorhouse Fair' at first feels like a trifle but it expands after you put the book down. Not to be a jerk, but after reading this book I felt I was watching a commercial for a paper towel expanding, gaining heft and becoming richer after being dipped in a glass of water. Silly, but that's how I feel. Read The Poorhouse Fair, put it down and then read 'Of the Farm' and then get cracking on the Rabbit novels. When you're done with those, we'll talk about 'Couples', and 'Towards the End of Time', and ...
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Westley VINE VOICE on August 3, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Updike's first novel takes place at a home for the elderly (the poorhouse). Published in 1958, the novel takes place in the near-future and chronicles the struggle between the elderly "inmates" of the poorhouse and the new director, Connors. Connor is a relatively young man, and he's hated by the poorhouse residents, especially when compared to the previous director, the loveable Mendellsohn. This hatred seems to stem from mutual distrust and miscommunication.
The action takes place on the day of the annual fair, when the residents sell crafts and other goods to the local townspeople. The fair has always been the residents favorite day, although a burden they simultaneously resent. When the fair goes less then well, the residents revolt, albeit in rather passive ways, against their new leader, further delineating the lines between them.
Updike's greatest asset as a writer has always been his love of language and that gift is present even here, his first novel. Unfortunately, the novel lacks the stronger narrative drive he subsequently developed in novels such as the Rabbit series. At times, the novel is confusing and almost free-form in nature. This situation is particularly pronounced in the final third, when the townspeople converge on the poorhouse, introducing a multitude of new characters and stories.
Although brilliantly written, the novel is sluggish at times. At less than 200 pages, it nevertheless took me a relatively long time to struggle through. In the end, I appreciated many qualities of the book, but frankly I didn't really enjoy it. Recommended primarily for Updike completists.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Russell on June 2, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book about 15 years ago and just finished rereading it tonight. Have to say it has as much mystery and meaning as Melville, although the dialogue at the end got to be confusing and exasperating. Did I miss something big here? Regardless of some of my frustration with the confusing dialogue and shifting scenes, this book shows an author who is so good he understands the dynamics of growing old - before he even approaches old age. A real power struggle also is at play here between young and old and is one that doesn't seem to get resolved at the end. The author certainly shows his genious not just through description and dialogue - traits that bloom with his later works - but also with his discussion of past presidents as well as God - a theme that pleasantly revererates through his work. Found Hook's and Conner's dialogue about God and faith as a sort of preview for the debate of this subject in a later work - Roger's Version. Not one of his easiest books, by any means, but probably a good intro to his overall work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By scott on April 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Who but Updike could write a novel about a bunch of grumbling, poor old men and make it a thing of beauty. This is one of Updike's most poetic works, a world completely saturated in self-absorbed imagery, causing the book to writhe with life even though all the characters are either very old or pathetic. Surprisingly there is no adultery in this novel(!), but it is still easily recognizable as Updike by the nature of the gloom and doom observations. Althought the plot itself was a little weak, it seemed really to make no difference; the plot is merely the background which is there simply to showcase the richness and boldness of Updike's prose.
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