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The Early Stories: 1953-1975 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Oct 21 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (Oct. 21 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400040728
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040728
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 16.6 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,286,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Oldthinker on Oct. 26 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am a long-standing fan of Updike's short stories (though less so of his novels), and my three-star rating of this book is not a reflection of my general opinion of him as a writer. Nevertheless, I do have some issues with this particular volume.

I think that it was a mistake to collect over 100 short stories under one cover with virtually no sieving. Updike made his living from writing and, and as far as I understand, he never held a regular job after he resigned from the New Yorker at the age of 25 - so I would be the last person to blame him for having published some short stories that were not quite to his general standard. When a small collection contains a couple of such works, this is usually not a problem. The situation inevitably becomes different on a scale of 100+ samples: the gap in quality between the best 10 and the weakest 10 of them is massive, and it is impossible not to notice this. I do not think that exposing his lesser works against the background of so many great stories found in this volume has done Updike's standing any good. I own virtually all collections of short stories ever published by him, and in my opinion he emerges a better author from each of his individual early collections than from this volume that combines their content.

I did not like the fact that while putting together this book Updike decided to change a few things here and there. In particular, the last sentence of the wonderful 'Dentistry and Doubt' is way too subtle in its revised version, and I suspect that some readers may now miss the whole point of the ending: I probably would, had I not read the story the way it was originally published.

Giving the hardback a deckle edge was a bad idea.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12 2004
Format: Hardcover
I never much liked Updike's short stories until I started writing short stories myself. Many of the complaints people have with Updike are legitimate. He is usually light on plot. There is virtually no physical action--no fistfights, no murders, no sobbing confessions. But that, to me, is part of Updike's genius.
He always takes the difficult road. He doesn't simply have a husband cheat on his wife; instead, he has the husband worry that he will cheat on his wife, and then he considers the implications. I disagree with critics who accuse Updike of being unemotional. His stories are tangles of pure emotion.
My favorite story in the collection is "Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, A Dying Cat, A Traded Car." It's set up as a series of essays that eventually carry the reader into a story about the author's dying father. It feels like a compilation of random events until you get ot the last line, and then you realize that everything is connected, everything has a purpose. It may be the most beautiful ending I've ever read. (The second most beautiful ending is in "The Happiest I've Been.")
Updike is not for everyone. If you like simple, straightforward stories, read Tobias Wolff (he is amazing in a totally different way). But if you're interested in a world vivid with details--a world with no easy questions, let alone answers--try Updike.
One caveat: read slowly--the magic is more in the words than the paragraphs.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7 2004
Format: Hardcover
I only liked maybe two or three stories in this entire collection. The rest were pretty timid and uneventful, as though Updike were afraid of getting his hands dirty and immersing himself in the flesh and bone realities of life and narrative. This hesitation to actually "go for it" is a hallmark of all of Updike's fiction in my opinion, which leaves all of his stories devoid of what you might call narrative vitality, or realness. It is this distance between Updike and what he's writing about that leads the reader to believe that Updike is not writing a story but merely philosophizing about one. Updike's pompous abstractions inevitably deprive these stories of a vigour that they might otherwise have.
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By A Customer on Feb. 19 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is not just a collection of great stories; it is a collection of great writing. Updike can write a story and really make you feel it.
And no one has any business saying that Updike's writing is dull and dry and pointless and repetitive. The Updike short story has many forms, from a letter to minutes in a meeting to a journal entry.
I read a review about this book that said Updike was a showoff mechanic with words and that he didn't know how to write anything with emotional substance. Maybe that reviewer is right...if he's not comfortable with writing that does more than tell a story.
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