Updike: America's Man of Letters

By William H. Pritchard | Go to book overview

THREE
THE PENNSYLVANIA THING

Pigeon Feathers · The Centaur · " Leaving Church Early" · Of the Fann

When in 1964 Updike decided to publish a volume titled Olinger Stories, containing the short fiction he had written about his boyhood in Pennsylvania and his later returnings to that place, he concluded the foreword by admitting that if he had to pick a few stories to represent him, these would be the ones. For many readers like me who began to discover Updike in the early 1960s, it was these stories — even more than the first Rabbit novel or The Centaur — that made the largest impact. To some degree their popularity has worked against Updike's reputation overall, by prompting the claim that his excellence lies in shorter rather than longer fiction. Yet there is no need to denigrate one genre by hoisting up another. After all, as Randall Jarrell sagely remarked, a novel is a prose narrative of a certain length that has something wrong with it; some of Updike's stories have, as it were, nothing wrong with them. But as can be seen from his most ambitious work in the 1962 collection Pigeon Feathers, he was concerned to break up the boundaries of the "well-made" story (" Snowing in Greenwich Village," for example) in the interests of a more meditative, wandering, and associative pattern of writing. More often than not a "story" of this sort works through nonsequential, imaginative linkings, so that even when the progression is straightforward enough — as in " The Happiest I've Been" — there is a leisurely feel to things quite different, for

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Updike: America's Man of Letters
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chronology xi
  • Intorduction the Man of Letters 1
  • One - First Fruits 17
  • Two - The Novelist Takes off 45
  • Three - The Pennsylvania Thing 63
  • Four - Adultery and Its Consequences 117
  • Five - Impersonations of Men in Trouble (1) 145
  • Six - Impersonations of Men in Trouble (ii) 169
  • Seven - Extravagant Flctions 195
  • Eight - The Critic and Reviewer 229
  • Nine - Poet, Memoirist 253
  • Ten - Rabbit Retired 277
  • Eleven - Post-Rabbit Effects 301
  • Notes 333
  • Bibliography 339
  • Index 343
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