To the hero of the title story of this collection, all of England has the glow of an afterlife: “A miraculous lacquer lay upon everything, beading each roadside twig . . . each reed of thatch, each tiny daisy trembling in the grass.” All of these stories, each in its own way, partake of this glow, as life beyond middle age is explored and found to have its own exquisite dearness. As death approaches, existence takes on, for some of Updike’s aging characters, a translucence, a magical fragility; vivid memory and casual misperception lend the mundane an antic texture, and the backward view, lengthening, acquires a certain grandeur. Here is a world where wonder stubbornly persists, and fresh beginnings almost outnumber losses.
John Updike was the author of more than sixty books, including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His novels have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hugging the Shore, an earlier collection of essays and reviews, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He died in January 2009.
“Marvelously moving . . . These tales evoke a certain peace and a definite wonder at what an astonishingly graceful writer Updike is.”—USA Today “Quintessential Updike . . . These tales are elegies for lost youth and receding passions.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“If one trait can account for John Updike’s staying power, it is the man’s exquisite grasp of ordinary miracles. . . . With his small mirages, his puddles left by both the heroic and the damned, Updike can turn the simple, misguided efforts of a man into a signature of song.”—The Boston Globe