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Endpoint and Other Poems Hardcover – March 31, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Many delights but very few surprises await Updike's admirers in this last book of poems from the prolific essayist and novelist, completed only weeks before his death. Much of it gathers calm, casual, loosely rhymed sonnets, first in autobiographical sequences, describing the first and the last years of the poet's life: Age I must, but die I would rather not... Be with me, words, a little longer. These sequences sketch Arizona and New England; single sonnets, placed later in the collection, offer impressions of Russia, India, the Irish seashore (like loads of eternal laundry,/ onrolling breaks cresting into foam) and of nearer phenomena, such as the noise made by men fixing Updike's house. Quiet poems pay tribute to golf and golfers, to Eros in old age and to America, where beneath/ the good cheer and sly jazz the chance/ of failure is everybody's right,/ beginning with baseball. Elegant samples of Updike's celebrated light verse are also in evidence. Mostly, though, these are serious, quiet, low-pressure, frequently elegiac poems, concerned with later life—old doo-wop stars, for example, gray hairdos still conked,/ their up-from-the-choir baby faces lined/ with wrinkles now. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Perhaps especially on the strength of this final collection, Updike may eventually be seen as one of the few major novelists—Scott, Hardy, Meredith, maybe Melville—who are also important poets. His reputation is as a writer of light verse that rhymes, scans, and makes us laugh. Guilty as charged, but not always on all counts. The sequence that names this book consists of unrhymed—but only once, eccentrically scanning—sonnets and sonnet sequences that ruminate on Updike’s own past and present. Usually dated and spanning from Updike’s seventieth birthday in 2002 to the month, December 2008, before he died, these are personal but not egoistic poems. It seems as though Updike were aiming to record the end of the life of a successful enough American middle-class male, and in his novelist’s voice. He sees himself reminiscing, traveling, shopping, in the hospital, working (“A lightened life: last novel proofs Fed Exed—”), always as an intensely interesting and affecting character. There is light verse in the book’s later sections, and many more unrhymed sonnets as rich as those of “Endpoint.” --Ray Olson
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 97 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1St Edition edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307272869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307272867
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Once I heard a neighbor refer to our author as "little Johnny Updike" and when Rabbit ran, he drove down Rt 222S not too far from my door. To me and a friend or two it trumped Kerouac. A little more subtle, you might say. One book a year followed, just about, mainly the novels, where the protagonist never failed to tell me exactly how the world was going to feel in ten years when I reached the author's age. I am really, really going to miss that.

Several writers have commented on the greatness of these poems. That does them a disservice, I think. Updike doesn't show in the major anthologies and there's reason for that.

These poems show a cannily perceptive person facing his old age and then, suddenly, his impending death. The first half dozen are recent occasional pieces on his last birthdays

"the snowdrops lie/in drenched, bedraggled clumps/their tired news becoming weeds..."

Then a half dozen or so on the final illness

"My wife of thirty years is on the phone./I get a busy signal, and I know/she's in her grief and needs to organize/consulting friends. But me, I need her voice..."

There follow twenty or so assembled to fill out this book on varied subjects and occasions. They're marvelous Updike. Updike on TV, Updike on Helen of Troy, Updike on Monica Lewinski, Updike on Updike's career. How can there be no more Updike?

I searched out his Shillington home long ago. Only a few years ago I found the hardscrabble, woodsy farm in which he and the Mother lived. Tiny little farmhouse defaced with prefabs sprinkled about. Up the hill is the Lutheran church where the pastor shared his shocking thought that little Johnny would only be seeing Granny in heaven again in some very abstract and meaningless way.
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Format: Hardcover
This volume contains the last writings of John Updike. He wrote some of these poems when he was aware of the fact that he was dying of cancer. Updike is of course known as one of America's greatest second- half of the twentieth - century novelists. He is too known as its perhaps most accomplished man- of- letters. Through the years he too produced a considerable number of volumes of Poetry. They were skilled and polished works, works of a master craftsman as this work is also.
The volume also contains a sequence of Poems which he wrote at various birthday- celebrations. And too has a number of miscellaneous poems.
The most moving poems here are those in which he takes a look at his life as a whole, his childhood friendships, the tremendous transformations that Time has brought. The situation itself is a poignant one. We seek the wisdom of the great man before his going. We seek to understand how he struggles with the pains of his illness, and the fear before Death.
Updike was by all accounts an extremely cordial and likeable person. His great intelligence was coupled with a certain modesty. And this despite the dazzling character of his literary skill, his acrobatic stylistic brilliance.
My own sense is that his skill as a writer , or rather his many skills were more manifest in the longer spaces and elaborations of prose- and that the art of condensation which is poetry's essence was not really what his spirit was in tune with.
Nonetheless there is much to be moved by in this volume. And to be surprised by. Updike so celebrated and loved as a writer imagines in one poem he will be readily forgotten. In another he shows a religious sensibility a spirit of prayer. He is as always alert to the paradoxical beauties of the everyday.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a special gift John Updike gave his readers just before he died in January 2009. It comprises the poems he wrote during the last six or seven years of his life, among them his very last poems, some of them written on his deathbed,in the Mass. General Hospital, Boston, deeply moving poems, sad and serene. There are lots of other poems, even funny poems,about all aspects of life, about childhood and family, about sex and sports and nature and travelling. "Endpoint" is - as most the novels Updike wrote during his long and prolific lifetime - a unique celebration of life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
His fiction praised,awards and honors won,
John always seemed too Ivy League for me.
Rabbit was much too horny for my taste.
Although I read Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu
A dozen times,his skinny book of poems
Was just a whim, purchased to pass my time.
I think he may have saved his best for last
And see his genius now for what it was.

I too search for that boy lost in my mirror
And think of friends and family long since gone,
My birthdays savored like these classic poems.
John lingered with us long enough to leave
A final gift for those who stayed to watch
The credits roll before the curtain fell.
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Format: Hardcover
John Updike, Endpoint (Knopf, 2009)

The first John Updike book I read was <em>Midpoint</em>, his 1969 collection of poetry, published when he was thirty-seven. I was going to try and make some sort of inane comparison with <em>Endpoint</em>, Updike's final book, published posthumously, but I figure that fact that <em>Midpoint</em> actually ended up almost being an exact midpoint makes any point I was going to make there far more elegantly than I would have. And while Updike's poetry has gotten a great deal more conservative over the years (I know a magazine editor or two who use the sonnets in <em>Midpoint</em> as examples of how avant-garde formal poetry can be they'll accept for publication), Updike to the end never lost an ounce of his sense of the wonders inherent in the English language, and how to shape those wonders into something ineffable (Campbell McGrath, at a posthumous reading of the book, said Updike's use of language is comparable to sound effects in a film; indeed):

"Today, the author hits three score thirteen,
an age his father, woken in the night
by pressure on his heart, fell short of. Still,
I scribble on. My right hand occupies
the center of my vision, faithful old
five-fingered beast of burden, dappled with
some psoriatic spots I used to hate..."
(--"The Author Observes His Birthday, 2005")

You can take it as a whole and probably miss some stuff, but if you want to isolate something, just read through that slowly, emphasizing the s sounds, and then pause and consider the landscape Updike has created in that short section. It's hilly, gently so, and windswept, and has a few tufts of dead grass here and there but is otherwise barren--and endlessly fascinating. I ended up liking this just as much as I did <em>Midpoint</em>, which was quite a pleasant surprise given the relentlessly autobiographical nature of much of the material here. Highly recommended. ****
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