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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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The Poorhouse Fair: A Novel Paperback – March 13, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345468236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345468239
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,643,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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By Upbeat on February 6, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've enjoyed nearly all of Updike's writing, except Bech. Honored to have included his work in teaching my American Literature classes. When the biography came out, I knew I should have started at the beginning. This is incisive; even more so when we see how young he was when he wrote it. Now enjoying life in a 55+ community, I found this to be a real prize.
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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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Format: Paperback
I found myself wishing that Updike, as he matured, had decided to return to this early effort and fix it, getting rid of missteps and excesses that finally bury a potentially classic story. I can’t believe an editor didn’t flatly say “no” to the following passage, in which the poorhouse prefect reacts to having placed a heavy stone in a wheelbarrow:

“The rock settled resoundingly. Conner’s fingers were nearly pinched in his inexperience. Nevertheless it gave him unexpected satisfaction, holding stones in this wet, freshened world. Stones were man’s oldest companions; handling them, the first civilized act. The subconscious commemoration roused by the abrasion of his hands and the pull on his forearms made Conner feel brisk, purged, central; there was a widespread anthropolatry in things of which he was the focus. Above, the sky seemed a mammoth negative which, printed, might prove a Michelangelesque mural; like the long hair of persons fleeing tendrils of vapor unwinding slid sideways across blue patches vivid as paint. Silver rivers lay between clouds.”

That’s just plain awful. Is there a reader on earth who thinks this is good writing?

An added annoyance in the Knopf first edition is the bowdlerization of profanity: “f.ing,”, etc. I can’t believe this was widespread in American publishing as late as 1959. I do recall reading in Adam Begley’s biography of Updike that Alfred A. Knopf was a notorious prude. Current editions of Updike’s novel are surely free of this annoyance.
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