The Coup

"All the languages they used,
therefore, felt to them as clum-
sy masks their thoughts must
put on."

The Coup

Nearly everyone agrees that The Poorhouse Fair is an unusual first novel. How, admiring readers asked in 1959, can an author so young write about people so old? With the dash and assurance of an experienced novelist, Updike reversed the normal procedure of first purging himself with a story of youth and initiation and offered instead a tale of age and belief. The Poorhouse Fair is an extraordinary debut.

Just as unexpected as the subject matter was Updike's decision to set his first novel in the near future.Many beginning authors write to find out where they are, but Updike took a guess at where we will be.His guess was uncannily accurate. From the safety of hindsight, it is easy to lament the degeneration of handcraft to plastic, belief to busyness; for shoddiness was not so pervasive in the late 1950s when he wrote the novel. Even more difficult than the forecasting was the necessity of visualizing a world for the people at the poorhouse fair. Representing a landscape is more conservative than creating one because the author may rely on the touchstone of familiarity to keep his readers aware of the setting. The Poorhouse Fair is not a conservative novel, just as Updike is not always a traditional novelist.Yet to manipulate the conventions of conservative storytelling is not to insist on the excesses of experimental technique. A writer does not have to resort to pyrotechnical displays of narrative energy to illustrate his delight in innovation. One of the triumphs of The Poorhouse Fair is that Updike sets his tale in the strange future and yet keeps his readers in touch with the familiar present.The created land

-28-

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John Updike's Novels
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • John Updike's Novels *
  • Table of Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments viii
  • Preface ix
  • Created Landscapes - The Poorhouse Fair (1959) the Coup (1978) *
  • The Poorhouse Fair *
  • The Coup 28
  • Why Rabbit Should Keep on Running - Rabbit, Run (1960) Rabbit Redux (1971) Rabbit Is Rich (1981) *
  • Rabbit, Run *
  • Rabbit Redux 64
  • Rabbit Is Rich 84
  • Home - The Centaur (1963) of the Farm (1965) 100
  • The Centaur *
  • Of the Farm 121
  • Faltering toward Divorce - Couples (1968) a Month of Sundays (1975) Marry Me: a Romance (1976) 140
  • Couples *
  • A Month of Sundays 163
  • Marry Me: A Romance 184
  • Bech: A Conclusion - Bech: a Book 200
  • Bech: A Book *
  • Selected Checklist of John Updike's Novels 212
  • Index 217
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