"A TOUCHING, ELEGIAC COLLECTION OF STORIES about infidelity, about the weight of family, about the dwindling of years, about the heart and other organs. . . . [Updike] works so slowly and carefully that you rarely see the emotional punches coming."
"THESE STORIES SHARE A THEME OF RETROSPECT AND A BITTERSWEET TONE OF FORGIVENESS. . . . Updike, who has found in Rabbit an indispensable, if unlikely, vehicle for his truest insights into the mysterious of manhood, the promise of American life and the operations of divine grace, could no more pass up the opportunity for a further Rabbit report than Rabbit himself could forgo a bowl of macadamia nuts. . . . His observations eddy and swirl into the main stream of his narrative, swelling it with life."
-The New York Times Book Review
" 'RABBIT REMEMBERED' IS A THING OF RICH SATISFACTION. . . . IMPOSSIBLE TO FORGET . . . Throughout the collection are passages of stylistic certainty and bittersweet intimacy."
-The Boston Sunday Globe
"OUTSTANDING WORK . . . We always suspected that Updike would try to pull one more Rabbit out of his hat. Now, some 10 years after the death of everybody's favorite Updike character, Updike has done just that, and with great success. . . . 'Rabbit Remembered' ranks with his best work."
"GLIMMERING . . . SEDUCTIVE . . . JOHN UPDIKE HITS HIS STRIDE"
Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom has been dead for a decade in Rabbit Remembered, the novella that closes this latest, richly evocative Updike collection. His widow, Janice, is married to Ronnie Harrison, the widower of Thelma, with whom Harry had a long-time liaison. His son Nelson's wife, Pru, whom Harry also briefly bedded, has left Nelson, who has kicked the coke habit and still lives in the old Springer house with Janice and Ronnie. The past surfaces unexpectedly when Annabelle Byers, Harry's illegitimate daughter, makes herself known to the family. The ramifications of Harry's legacy include a strained Thanksgiving dinner that degenerates into political argument and acrimonious insults, and a mordantly funny flashback to a scene in which Harry's cremated remains were inadvertently left on a closet shelf in a Comfort Inn. While Updike explores the dark territory of bitterness, resentment and guilt, he also includes his trademark ticker-tape of current events (Hillary's candidacy, etc.), a typically muddled millennium New Year's Eve and a surprisingly upbeat denouement. For Rabbit fans, this is a must-read. In addition, the 12 short stories collected here present a kaleidoscope of Updike settings and themes. One element is common to nearly all the tales: the protagonist is a libidinous married man, ever on the lookout for adulterous adventures. In all of them, nostalgia is pierced with insight and regret. This is a treasury of Updike's craft, each story a small gem. 60,000 first printing; first serial to the New Yorker. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Excerpt from Licks of Love by John Updike
The Women Who Got Away
Pierce Junction was an isolated New Hampshire town somewhat dignified by
the presence of a small liberal-arts college; we survived by clustering
together like a ball of snakes in a desert cave. The Sixties had taught us
the high moral value of copulation, and we were slow to give up on an
activity so simultaneously pleasurable and healthy. Still, you couldn't
sleep with everybody: we were bourgeoisie, responsible, with jobs and
children, and affairs demanded energy and extracted wear and tear. We
hadn't learned yet to take the emotion out of sex. Looking back, the
numbers don't add up to what an average college student now manages
in four years. There were women you failed ever to sleep with; these, in
retrospect, have a perverse vividness, perhaps because the contacts, in
the slithering ball of snakes, were so few that they have stayed distinct.
"Well, Martin," Audrey Lancaster murmured to me toward the end of a summer
cruise on a boat hired out of Portsmouth in celebration of somebody or
other's fortieth birthday, "I see what they say about you, at last." The
"at last" was a dig of sorts, and the "they" was presumably female in
gender. I wondered how much conversation went on, and along lines how
specific, among the wives and divorc�es of our set. I had been standing
there by the rail, momentarily alone, mellow on my portion of California
Chablis, watching the Piscataqua River shakily reflect the harbor lights
as the boat swung to dock and the loudspeaker system piped Simon and
Garfunkel into the warm, watery night.
My wife was slow-dancing on the forward deck with her lover, Frank Greer.
Audrey had materialized beside me and my hand went around her waist as if
we might dance, too. There my hand stayed, and, like the gentle buzz you
get from a frayed appliance cord, the reality of her haunch burned through
to my fingers and palm. She was a solid, smooth-faced woman, so
nearsighted that she moved with a splay-footed pugnacity, as if something
she didn't quite see might knock her over. Her contact lenses were always
getting lost, in somebody's lawn or at the back of her eyeballs. She had
married young and was a bit younger than the rest of us. You had to love
Audrey, seeing her out on the tennis court in frayed denim cut-offs, with
her sturdy brown legs and big, squinty smile, taking a swing and missing
the ball completely. Her waist was smooth and flexible in summer cotton,
and, yes, she was right, for the first time in all our years of
acquaintance I sensed her as a potential mate, as a piece of the cosmic
puzzle that might fit my piece.
But I also felt that, basically, she didn't care for me, not enough to
come walking through all of adultery's risks and spasms of guilt, all
those hoops of flame. She distrusted me, the way you distrust a
competitor. We were both clowns, bucking to be elected Funniest in the
Class. Further, she was taken, doubly: not only married, to a man called
Spike, with the four children customary for our generation, but involved
in a number of murky flirtations or infatuations, including one with my
best friend, Rodney Miller-if a person could be said to have same-sex
friends in our rather doctrinairely heterosexual enclave. She had a nice
way of drawling out poisonous remarks, and said now, to me, "Shouldn't you
go tell Jeanne and Frank the boat is about to dock? They might get
arrested by the Portsmouth fuzz for public indecency."
I said, "Why me? I'm not the cruise director."
Jeanne was my wife. Her love for Frank, in the twisted way of things back
then, helped bind me to her: I felt so sorry for her, having to spend most
of her hours with me and the children when her heart was elsewhere. She
had been raised a French Catholic, and there was something noble for her
about suffering and self-denial; her invisible hairshirt kept her torso
erect as a dancer's and added to her beauty in my eyes. I didn't like
Audrey mocking her. Or did I? Perhaps my feelings were more primitive,
more stupidly possessive, than I knew at the time. I tightened my grip on
Audrey's waist, approaching a painful pinch, then let go, and went forward
to where Jeanne and Frank, the music stopped, looked as if they had just
woken up, with bloated, startled faces. Frank Greer had been married, to a
woman named Winifred, until rather recently in our little local history.
Divorce, which had been flickering at our edges for a decade while our
vast pool of children slowly bubbled up through the school grades toward,
we hoped, psychological health, was still rare, and sat raw on Frank, like
the red cheek he had been pressing against my wife's.