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The Centaur Paperback – Apr 1 1988

24 customer reviews

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Paperback, Apr 1 1988
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Andre Deutsch Ltd; New edition edition (April 1 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0233983058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0233983059
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Product Description


“A triumph of love and art.”—The Washington Post
“A brilliant achievement . . . No one should need to be told that Updike has a mastery of language matched in our time only by the finest poets.”—Saturday Review
“Unsurpassed . . . Natural, pertinent, fresh, subtle, and superbly written.”—Newsweek --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

"A Triumph Of Love And Art."

-- The Washington Post

"A brilliant achievement...No one should need to be told that Updike has a mastery of the language matched in our time only by the finest poets."

-- Saturday Review

"A brilliant and moving novel."

-- The Baltimore Sun

"Unsurpassed...Natural, pertinent, fresh, subtle, and superbly written."

-- Newsweek

"A classic...A beautiful and memorable book."

-- The Critic --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 14 2004
Format: Paperback
To say a book is not worth anything simply because modern readers won't be familiar with Greek myths is yet again an indication that the majority of people are imbeciles. If you aren't familiar, get familiar! Dig deeper than most commercial fiction allows. That's the wonderful thing about literature, in particular Updike. You can read this book and not know anything about Greek myths, and it still will be an amazing read. (I normally don't get sad while reading; but one sentence in particular in this book - one sentence! - almost brought me to tears.) If you happen to know Greek mythology, then the underlying symbolism in the novel will have meaning for you beyond the sheer emotion presented in the story.
As a whole, this is a wonderful, complicated book, one I plan on rereading as much as time (and other books) allow.
Also, seriously: yet again, this is proof for me that certain books (i.e. literature) cannot be listened to on tape. There is something within the optical structure of a novel that adds even more depth to the story. There is a reason a paragraph begins and end; a reason why something is in italics, or point-of-view switches from first to third. You lose all that when you listen to it. Try reading it, and maybe you'll see what I'm talking about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrew on Aug. 24 2003
Format: Paperback
I'm a big fan of Updike--his Rabbit novels, especially--but I' still convinced that this is his best book.
The story concerns three days in the lives of George and Peter Caldwell, two residents of fictional Olinger, Pennsylvania. George is a high school science teacher, an endlessly compassionate man who is cursed with dangerously low self-esteem. Peter is his son, a developing artist who simultaneously loves and is exasperated with his father.
Interwoven with their story is the story of Chiron, "the noblest Centaur." Chiron's existence is one of suffering, due to a fatal wound he recieved at the hands of Hercules. Because of this affliction, he willingly gives up his life to save Prometheus, who is being punished by Zeus for the theft of fire. Throughout the course of the novel, it becomes apparent that George Caldwell is Chiron, a hero who suffers that those around him might live, and that Peter is Prometheus, an impetuous youth who dares to touch the face of God.
All of these elements combine wonderfully to create one of Updike's best, most compassionate, most complex, and most personal works. It's got all the humanity and spiritual yearning of ROGER'S VERSION or the Rabbit novels, but it's also got something those books don't: hope.
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By MR G. Rodgers on May 18 2002
Format: Paperback
I thought that this was a beautifully-written novel, a delight to read. It's the story of a few days in the lives of the teacher George Caldwell and his teenage son, Peter.
Caldwell is struggling with middle-age burn-out, and Peter is at the age when his love for his father is mixed with feelings of rebellion (and embarrassment at his father's increasing eccentricities). Updike concentrates on the feelings of both George and Peter, but as the story unfolds, Peter's view of the world comes to dominate the narrative, and I felt that I was really seeing things through the eyes of a teenager and sharing his feelings.
That Updike could pull this off is a measure of how good a writer he is when at his best: in particular, his eye for detail and the everyday nuances of daily life are excellent.
I'm not that versed in Greek mythology, and the parts of the novel devoted to this are relatively short, so it shouldn't deter prospective readers. I suppose that quite how the mythological parts relate to the characters is up to each reader to decide - rather than put foward my impression, I'll refrain. Each to his/her own opinion!
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Format: Paperback
The Greek mythology interspersed throughout this book is a small but seemingly important factor. The protagonist, Caldwell/Chiron is a teacher of high school students in 1940s East Coast. Caldwell is an obsequious and self-hating man that feels totally inadequate in life - however, he is a goodhearted man that means well. Caldwell, like the famous centaur, Chiron, is a noble teacher that lacks the command and respect that a good person deserves. The book starts with Caldwell being shot in the foot with an arrow that one of his students shot into his foot (the same way in which Chiron is killed in Greek mythology.) Caldwell and his son Peter/Prometheus are connected for a three-day period after car trouble and a blizzard. The book is mostly narrated from Peter's viewpoint, and you sense the boy/students frustration with his father/teacher and his lack of self-esteem.
Peter dotes over his father during this bonding period, as his father prepares for death and his lack of will to live. Symbolically I believe that the father figure is immortal in a son's eyes, and just as Chiron prepares for death as an immortal, the father figure must also prepare for a type of death when the son comes of age as a young adult. The story slowly evolves to being a modern day metaphor of the Chiron legend.
I wish I knew more about Greek mythology to truly appreciate this book. Even though my amateurish knowledge limited my understanding of the symbolism, I still truly enjoyed the book and Updike's incredible ability to write. I recommend the book and also recommend having a basic understanding of the Chiron legend to really appreciate the book.
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