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S Hardcover – February 12, 1988
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Sarah leaves her husband for a "spiritual" commune or ashram, which Updike modeled on the one established in the 70's by Bhagavan Shri Rajneesh in Oregon. Having lived in a community that bears much similarity to the one portrayed, I can vouche for the accuracy (greatly exaggerated, of course) of the likeness. But although my own experience was no less disappointing than Sarah's, I would have liked to have thought that a writer of Updike's ability and insight would not stoop to getting the usual belly laughs at the expense of all those who have tried to find spiritual growth through Eastern traditions. He seems to have steeped himself deeply in the language and philosophy of Buddhism and Hinduism, but only to lampoon those who are drawn to them. His portrayal is clever, and certainly captures the worst aspects of such endeavors, but it veers towards the most cynical view imaginable -- that those who pursue such traditions and lifestyles are viciously greedy, self-indulgent frauds, and those who steer clear of them to pursue the stock market or whatever are far wiser souls. If you want to wallow in that perspective, this book's for you.
Updike's portrayal of Sarah herself is similarly tainted.Read more ›
It is written from the point of view of a very WASP New England lady (one of her ancestors is a Prynne, and her daughter is called Pearl) who deserts her adulterous doctor husband to join a Hindu or Buddhist (I was never quite sure which) commune in Arizona.It's written in the form of the letters and tapes she sends to correspodents back East (her dentist, hairdresser, husband, psychotherapist, daughter,best friend, lawyer, hairdresser's jailed son etc).
She starts off as a naive dupe, but by the end has oth cleverly outsmarted everyone who tried to rip her off and achieved the spiritual development she sought from the fraudulent guru.
Sarah has in fact left her husband and gone to join a religious commune in Arizona. Through her dispatches to various friends, family and acquaintances we follow the fortunes of the community and her role within it through to its surprising (?) conclusion.
The novel has been criticised for its satirical presentation of Buddhism, yoga, etc. in the context of commune life. I'm not sure Updike would accept the charge. In fact I found quite a lot of fair-mindedness in the book - it actually left me with an improved rather than diminished opinion of what Eastern ideas are actually aspiring to - although I don't think Updike can excuse himself from drawing on certain stereotypes. But this is essentially a light, comic novel - although I don't see why it necessarily had to be - and probably shouldn't be taken too seriously.Read more ›
A benefit of the letter format is that it allows a full exploration of the narrator's voice, to excellent effect. It also suppresses Updike's tendency to rely too heavily on his (excellent) descriptive language and instroduces an element of suspense that makes the story quite absorbing.
S. has been criticized by other reviewers for its perceived mockery of Eastern religions, but I don't think this is intended. Updike has obviously done extensive research - if not into Eastern religions themselves, then at least into their Western offshoots - and presents the characters with what, for him, is considerable sympathy. Of course he mocks the narrator's blind devotion to the commune - that's part of what the book is about - but he's mocking the misdirection of her efforts, not the ideals to which she aspires.
The one element of the book that frustrated me was Updike's treatment of his narrator. Sure, it's fun to read a book about an arrogant and slightly hysterical woman who is always just slightly out of her league - a Bridget Jones for our mothers' generation.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
S by John Updike
This book is a compilation of letters from Sarah Worth as she writes to many others who live back home. She has left Charles and has moved to the west. Read more
Not sure why. But this novel about a Boston lady who takes off for an ashram is one of the best I've read. And don't worry about the single letter S. Read morePublished on June 14, 2014 by Valery
This book is written in one-sided correspondence from Sara, a New England raised WASP, who has decided to ditch her unsatisfying husband and boring life to live on an ashram in... Read morePublished on February 17, 2014 by Elizabeth
or have my dear wife find me crumpled in front of the fireplace, a mere cinder, all that was left of my hilarity. This book is very, very funny. Read morePublished on January 10, 2013 by Kit Marlowe
After only a few pages, I had to back up and say..."damn, that Updike can write."
Perhaps not Updike's best but so much better than most of the stuff in print that it's... Read more
This may be the only book by John Updike that I really like. Usually, I abhor his writing and his themes. Read morePublished on June 9, 2009 by Fairbanks Reader - Bonnie Brody
If I'd read a review that said "flaky society woman juggles marriage, divorce, life on a commune, Eastern religion, isolation, sexual experiences, driving others crazy... Read morePublished on May 9, 2009 by James B. Martin
_S_ is a series of letters by Sarah Worth, the wife of a philandering doctor, to her husband, her daughter, her mother, and others. Read morePublished on January 10, 2007 by IRA Ross
One theme shines throughout Updike's novels- ridicule. The author has a gift for being able to expose the weaknesses, faults and insecurities of people, and he does it in a very... Read morePublished on December 14, 2006 by Ignatious Valve