- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reissue edition (August 27, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0449912256
- ISBN-13: 978-0449912256
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pigeon Feathers: And Other Stories Paperback – August 27, 1996
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“Electricity lights [John Updike’s] prose like a Christmas tree. . . . So full of fire and ice that it almost breaks through to some ‘fourth dimension’ in writing.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Updike is not merely talented; he is bold, resourceful and intensely serious. . . . We hear talk now and then of a breakthrough in fiction, the achievement of a new attitude and hence a new method; something like that seems close at hand in Pigeon Feathers.”—Saturday Review
“A sustained pleasure . . . a world seen and described and interpreted by a subtle, poetic, intellectual, wondering consciousness . . . These are wonderfully written pieces.”—Library Journal
From the Inside Flap
"Some of the most beautiful writing in contemporary American literature is between the covers of this book . . ." BOSTON HERALD
The triumphant collection of short stories by America's most acclaimed novelist.
From the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
There is a lot of variety in these short stories. Seven of these stories take place in the fictional Pennsylvanian suburb of Olinger, in which Updike pays homage to his adolescence. While each story in this collection is unique and special in its own right, there are some that I found to be particularly strong:
"A&P": This is one of the shortest and straightforward stories in the collection, but was my favorite. Sammy is a 19-year-old cashier working at the A&P when he becomes infatuated with three girls who come into the store wearing bathing suits. When the manager scolds the girls for being indecent, Sammy is brought to a moral crossroad of conformance or to reject the values that A&P represents.
In "A&P," the manager is the voice of parental authority (friend of Sammy's family), pastoral authority (Sunday school teacher) and a business leader. Sammy represents the middle class conformist, who works behind the third register eating HiHo crackers. The girls represent the unattainable, with their sexual promiscuity and Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks. Great symbolism and struggle is packed into this condensed narrative that is truly rewarding.
"Flight": Allen Dow's mother predicts that her son will fly -- escape the destructive hold of ordinary life that has plagued their family. When Allen develops a relationship with the Olinger girl Molly Bingaman, this prediction is compromised and the relationship between Allen and his mother soon changes. "Flight" is about relationships and the conflict of deciding between young love and the yearning to escape.
"Pigeon Feathers": The title story reflects on David Kern, who is approaching his fifteenth birthday and ponders on death and theology. He is in search of reassurance in God's existence and eternal life, but is continually misdirected, and is even discouraged by his minister when he inquires in Sunday School. Later in the story, David is asked shoot the pigeons in the barn so they will not harm the Olinger furniture that is stored in there. Through this experience, David comes to terms with God, creation and death.
"Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, A Dying Cat, A Traded Car": This story seems to be a favorite by many readers. For me, the structure was a bit loose; however, the story and prose still show why Updike is one of the more talented writers in recent history. "Packed Dirt. . ." continues from "Pigeon Feathers" with David Kern as an adult. His struggles with faith are looked at from a different perspective as an adult in four episodes. He receives news that his father is ill and returns to his home. The traded car that David will soon exchange becomes representative for his writing and life itself, which is "dismissed without a blessing, a kiss, a testament, or any ceremony of farewell." This story is fittingly placed at the end of the collection and strongly represents Updike's views.
For any fan of John Updike or for someone interested in getting a taste of his writing, this collection is strongly recommended. I do not place these stories as highly as I place the Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy, but from what I have read of Updike, they stand the closest.
to longer, stronger stories, like "Flight" and the final two episodic stories, showcasing the defining moments of adolescence and young adulthood; moments when the voice inside assuring us of our own greatness and immortality grows fainter and fainter.
Philosophically, this collection is held together by the idea that beauty, love and fame are tenuous phenomena, no more substantial than
shapes of light skating across a room, or the images of a film projector (see "Flight"). This motif is always at the forefront of Updike's poetry and diction. ("The Persistance of Desire," which plays upon the indispensible role of eyesight, literal and figurative, ingenuously spins a pun out of the optical effect of the persistance of vision for its title.)
This philosophy rarely overshadows Updike's gift for an unorthodox, reflective style of narration. Conflicts figure prominently in every story, but almost always the battle is staged in the heart and mind of its protagonist. Updike is a Cicero and Keats blessed with a unique penchant for American storytelling.
And this volume contains his greatest story--possibly what I feel to be the greatest piece of literature in all of latter-half 20th century American literature (and we're including it all here, not just short stories). The last story of the volume: Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, A Dying Car, A Traded Car.
Enough with the theoretics and generalities here. This story can change your life. Or, at the very least, it can alter the way in which you interact with literature--what you can expect out of literature.
One piece of advice, though: read it in one sitting.
Don't get up, even just for a little while to fix something to eat. Don't read it bit by bit (it's long, so you may be tempted). And, whatever you do, don't look at the last page before it's time.
It may seem disjointed. It may seem an odd accumulation of narratives. Don't stop reading.
Two years, and a hundred readings later, I still haven't gotten over that first experience. What I wouldn't give to have it again...