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Endpoint and Other Poems Hardcover – March 31, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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. ****
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent for what it is, although I wish there were a few more of his thoughts on the "endpoint". Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jim B.
It's Updike towards the end of his life; what more can I say?Published 8 months ago by Susannah L. Sulzman
This completes my Updike collection. We forget what a wonderful poet he was as well as an essayist and novelist. These poems are so meaningful for it is his last collection.Published 18 months ago by Nancy LaValle