Updike: America's Man of Letters

By William H. Pritchard | Go to book overview

SIX
IMPERSONATIONS
OF MEN IN TROUBLE (II)

A Month of Sundays · Short Fiction 1967-79

Updike's father, Wesley, died in 1972; two years later his son and Mary separated, with Updike taking an apartment in Boston. In 1976 they were divorced and he moved to Georgetown, Massachusetts; the following year he and Martha Bernhard would be married. Near the end of the story "Separating", published in 1975, the protagonist, Richard Maple, tells his son Dickie that he and Joan are about to separate. In a guilty agony he assures the boy, "I hate this. Hate it. My father would have died before doing it to me." It seems likely that the death of Wesley Updike may have made at least marginally easier his son's decision to separate and divorce. At any rate Updike's writings from this period are heavy with the whiff of promises betrayed, an old thing coming to its end, a new thing trying to bloom in its aftermath. Marry Me, finally published in the year of his divorce, had imagined, when written more than a decade earlier, its possibility; the Maples stories, some of which appeared in the 1960s, five more in the final section of Museums and Women ( 1972), had brought a couple's marriage to its breaking point. Their divorce became final in "Here Come the Maples" ( 1976) along with "Separating," the richest and deepest of the Maples stories. These two were collected with earlier Maples ones in Too Far to Go ( 1979); related postseparation and postdivorce stories, published in the later 1970s, appeared in Problems (also 1979), a further collection of short fiction.

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