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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
Sterile Cuckoo
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:$45.96+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on May 6, 2017
Ord the book, because I saw the movie years ago, and loved it, but had forgotten quite a bit of it. Remembered the song "Come
Saturday Morning". Thought it would be fun to read the book 30+ yrs later..

Quality of book is fair. Pages are very yellowed, and looks like they could become brittle. Kind of unhappy with
condition of the book.
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on May 15, 2010
I first read this book many years ago when I was in high school and I have to admit, as a romantic teenager (who had not yet come in contact with many of the college experiences portrayed in the book, including drinking binges, wild parties, and one's first red-hot sexual love affair) I didn't really "get it". Picking up the book again several decades and half a lifetime of experiences later, I "get it" better now. As this story appears to be set in the late 50s or very early 60s, Pookie Adams could be the mother (or perhaps the grandmother) of the emo, bespectacled "Ghost World" girls of the 90s and 00's. She ruminates on life and love to an extensive and bizarre degree; she is not conventionally physically beautiful, but with her quirky, forward ways, she still manages to capture the heart of the narrator, a rather ordinary, reserved young man named Jerry. If Pookie was in college today, she'd probably be buying her clothes at thrift stores and listening to indie rock singles while she scribbled her incisive, poetic and sometimes wacky thoughts into a notebook. By the end of the story, when Jerry and Pookie clash based on his obvious pursuit of boring normality - indeed, his lack of intellectualism and staunch pursuit of frat-guy drinking antics seem to make him the Boy Most Likely to Become Babbitt - you're rooting for Pookie all the way and wondering (as she herself does to some extent) what she ever saw in Jerry in the first place. It's clear that falling in love with Pookie was his most creative and outside-the-box action to date and that might be true for his entire life, and that whatever happens, he'll be remembering her for a long, long time.

The book ends on a much more positive note than the film, which takes the strong, vibrant Pookie character and turns her into a lovesick, depressed stalker. I liked the book much better since it's very open-ended. You're free to imagine your own fate for Pookie and Jerry. I liked to think she ran off to San Francisco and probably became a professor of creative writing somewhere.
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on March 22, 2009
You can tell Holden Caufield to go home and stop bitching and moaning. I'll take Pookie Adams any day. The book is quite a bit different from the film (which has virtues of its own - notably Liza Minnelli's heartbreaking performance); is it better? What do you think? (Yes, it's better). John Nichols has done a masterful job of drawing two characters just coming into flower - emotionally needy, confused, exhilerated, excited, horny, discovering sex, questioning the sincerity of their feelings for one another; it's truly an amazing piece of writing (especially as it was his debut). If you've never read it you're in for something special, and then pass it on to an adolescent in your life (boy or girl) - maybe they'll discover you don't have to be a vampire to feel "different" or "confused" or "special."
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on March 4, 2015
The book arrived in short order and was just as described.
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on August 12, 2016
The condition of the book is exactly as it was described. A very nice edition!
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on November 13, 2014
The book came a day late from the estimated time of arrival. However, that may have been due to the upcoming holiday. Anyway, the book was as described.
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on September 27, 2017
Somehow I came across The Sterile Cuckoo, and it sounded intriguing enough between the sex and college love affair. Older literally really isn't something I read too often, since I'm far more apt to seek out a newer novel. It's always good to switch things up, though, and switch it up I did!

I don't know if it's because I'm used to reading modern literature compared to older novels (say, pre-1990's) but old literature often feels bland to me and that I'm never that sucked in. The Sterile Cuckoo was unique enough to hold my interest, per se, but it was something I had no desire to plow through to find out what happened. The book opens with Jerry Payne and Pookie Adams meeting at a bus depot, and she talks to him nonstop, even though he is not all that interested. She writes to him, he doesn't write back, then eventually the two do meet and thus blossoms a relationship.

Pookie Adams is very strange and annoying, but at the same time it was very amusing. The book follows their relationship as it grows and goes on, and that's really it. For the most part, nothing super exciting happens.

What I'm trying to convey is that some aspects of The Sterile Cuckoo, while enjoyable, didn't make it a great read for me. While it had some parts I felt were good, overall it gave me a "meh" reaction upon reflecting if I liked it or not upon.

Afterward I rented the movie that came out a few years after the book to see how it fared, and the book was better. A film based on the book came out in 1969, and while nice to sit down and watch, I felt was way too different from the novel. All the movie did was take the characters and put them in a relationship. Everything else that happened in the book was omitted, including the book's ending, which really irked me since, without saying what happened, is a really big and important part of the story to omit!
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on November 18, 2016
A very powerful story of first love. A love which comes as people are seeking, and sometimes finding, their adult selves.

Pookie and Jerry are two such people, caught between a love which knows no time and the inevitable transition into adulthood. Nichols' eventual depiction of romantic malaise is without peer.

Many reviews make mention of the fact that 'The Sterile Cuckoo' was first published in 1965; as if it originated in the sixteenth-century and read like Renaissance poetry.

Fear not. Like all classics, this is timeless. The emotions, the arc of the story, the characters do not age. The date of publication is irrelevant.

Buy this and read it. It is rich in more ways than anyone can describe.
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on December 21, 2016
Wonderful, quirky little story about first love. I loved the character of Pookie Adams. The ending was kind of sad as the relationship played out. And I'm not sure Jerry got it right in the end after receiving the note. Perhaps, Pookie wanted someone to validate what she did or care enough to check and make sure she didn't go through with it (if her words were only a threat). But, by that point, Jerry and Pookie were no longer connecting in a way which worked. And, like Jerry, we'll never know.
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on January 14, 2012
Jerry Payne and Mary Anne "Pookie" Adams meet on a bus while Jerry is on the way to his first year at college. Over the course of the bus ride, Pookie, a rising high school senior, beguiles the somewhat reserved and quiet Jerry with her vast assortment of disjointed stories and observations--a quirky and low level seduction that culminates in her passionately kissing the surprized and unprepared Jerry. During Freshman year at his small New England college, Jerry's chief joy becomes that of receiving letters from the loquacious Pookie. Jerry's sophomore year begins with Pookie matriculating at a neighboring girl's school, as he settles into the perennial drinking and horsing around that appears to be the focus of life at his fraternity house.

With Pookie and Jerry now in close proximity to one another, and with a large choice of venues for unsupervised assignations, ranging from rustic cabins to the frat house itself, a love affair inevitably ensues--and in due time their relationship is sexually consummated. After this first intimate contact, the floodgates are opened to a veritable honeymoon of energetic couplings, rendering Jerry nearly oblivious to his academic obligations. Missing a good many lectures due to the time and energy invested in a relationship infinitely more compelling than his arid college courses, Jerry soon finds himself on the verge of flunking out--a problem that he remedies by retreating to the frat house over the course of Spring break--although accompanied by a live-in Pookie. Despite the temptations of this entertaining cohabitation, Jerry does seem to be able to focus to his studies during the break. The academic year ends with Pookie joining Jerry's circle of frat-guy friends and their associated girlfriends. Jerry and Pookie then spend the summer far removed from one another living in their respective hometowns with their families (with Jerry in the Northeast and Pookie in the Midwest) while working at dull summer jobs. Letters are exchanged between the two over the course of the summer, setting the stage for their next year in college.

It is at this point that the author is faced with the dilemma that confronts all writers of fiction: how to wrap up the story once all the pieces have been carefully placed on the chessboard and a few set piece opening gambits have been advanced. The author creates a few events that establish distance between the young lovers, or mark some turning point in their relationship. Being apart for the long summer could certainly have a negative impact on such a relationship. Pookie and Jerry indulge in cavorting with their drunken friends at a local cemetery--only to be discovered by an elderly professor visiting the grave of his beloved wife--the very grave that the sodden students have chosen as the site of their inebriated celebration. As the old man sadly turns away, the joy is seen to drain out of the young people's uncouth celebration--and, it is implied, from Pookie and Jerry's relationship. Other problems ensue. A drunken party at the frat house finds Jerry groping another girl from their entourage--who loudly decries his crude advances in Pookie's presence. Seeking a change of pace, Pookie and Jerry spend a few days in New York City at the end of the academic year. This visit, however, proves to be far from the romantic adventure that the two seek. Instead, they seem out of sorts and disinterested, a disinterest that oddly expresses itself as a transient suicide pact to be executed with a vast quantity of aspirin purchased from a drug store for this purpose. In the end, the two part company at Grand Central Station. Later, Jerry receives a letter from Pookie claiming that she is preparing to off herself using sleeping pills--a claim that Jerry thinks better not to investigate (by obtaining a copy of her hometown paper and seeking out her obituary)--instead, he decides to imagine her future as that as a successful artist, poet, or some other genre of creative individual.

I have a different idea from that put forth by the author regarding the reason that Jerry and Pookie go their separate ways. I think that the central problem plaguing their relationship is that they have nothing in common. The reason that they have nothing in common, however, is not because they are so different. Instead, the problem is that neither Jerry nor Pookie are actually interested in anything. At the beginning of the book Jerry talks about his interest in insects and work as an intern under the supervision of adult professionals with some expertise in entomology. This interest soon disappears after entering college, never to be heard of again. As for Pookie, her various ramblings and pronouncements are vapid and lacking in substance. Her greatest passions seem to be the comic strips that her grandfather once mailed to her, and gunning down the crows that disturb her mornings with Jerry at the frat house. Really, even if the two had an interest in their hometown sports teams it would be refreshing, let alone the great philosophical issues of the day. In the end, both Pookie and Jerry are both boring, and bore themselves and one another. Towards the end of the book Pookie writes a poem lamenting "The Sterile Cuckoo" which seems to be a sort of metaphor for their fruitless and meaningless relationship.

One last observation that I will put forward is that of the era in which the story is set. The author was born in 1940. He would then have started college in the late 1950's. As I am a little more than ten years younger than the author, the slang used by the characters is somewhat familiar to me--and I recognize it as belonging to the decade preceding my own college days. Although this book was published in 1965, it is clear to me that the events of the novel reflect the world of 1958 or 1959.
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