One of the signature novels of the American 1960s, Couples is a book that, when it debuted, scandalized the public with prose pictures of the way people live, and that today provides an engrossing epitaph to the short, happy life of the “post-Pill paradise.” It chronicles the interactions of ten young married couples in a seaside New England community who make a cult of sex and of themselves. The group of acquaintances form a magical circle, complete with ritualistic games, religious substitutions, a priest (Freddy Thorne), and a scapegoat (Piet Hanema). As with most American utopias, this one’s existence is brief and unsustainable, but the “imaginative quest” that inspires its creation is eternal.
About John Updike
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.
“Couples [is] John Updike’s tour de force of extramarital wanderlust.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Trapped in their cozy catacombs, the couples have made sex by turns their toy, their glue, their trauma, their therapy, their hope, their frustration, their revenge, their narcotic, their main line of communication and their sole and pitiable shield against the awareness of death.”—Time
“Ingenious . . . If this is a dirty book, I don’t see how sex can be written about at all.”—Wilfrid Sheed, The New York Times Book Review