John Updike?s memoirs consist of six chapters in which he writes of his home town, his psoriasis, his stuttering, his discomfort during the Vietnam war, his Updike ancestors, and his religion and sense of self. These essays together give the inner shape of a life, up to the age of fifty-five, of a relatively fortunate American male. He has attempted, his foreword states, ?to treat this life, this massive datum which happens to be mine, as a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world.? In the service of this metaphysical effort, he has been hair-raisingly honest and beautifully eloquent, not to say, in a number of places, self-effacingly funny. He takes the reader beyond self-consciousness, into sheer wonder at the world and its fabric. From Publishers Weekly Updike's memoirit is by no means an autobiography, but rather, as the title brilliantly suggests, a thoughtful communing with past selvesis, as expected, wonderfully written. It is also disarmingly frank about certain aspects of the writer's life. He seems, for instance, to have suffered an unusual number of physical and psychosomatic liabilities: psoriasis (which he attempted to alleviate by soaking himself in Caribbean sun and eventually by living in Ipswich, Mass., where he could sunbathe in the dunes); stuttering, less than chronic but anxiously erratic; and crippling bouts of asthma. Updike writes of them with extraordinary and thoughtful intensity. He recalls also, tenderly, his hometown in Pennsylvania, his parents, and later, at exhaustive length and detail, a coterie of Updikes, seemingly every one who ever lived. He also talks of his politics (he was unfashionably a centrist on Vietnam) and the ways in which God permeates his life. About what one suspects has probably been a very lively sex life he throws out only occasional hintswhile admitting to failures as father and husband. Above all, he emerges as a most profoundly committed writer: "To be in print was to be saved. And to this moment a day when I have produced nothing printable . . . is a day lost and damned." BOMC and QPBC alternates. Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. From Library Journal This work by Updike is not an autobiography; that is, it is not a chronicle of events that have made up the author's life. Rather, as the subtitle states, it is a collection of memoirs, of memories. Updike is smart enough to know that though memory is not always accurate, it is still the essential element in a consciousness of self. Here Updike's consciousness frequently focuses on his struggles--with psoriasis, with stuttering, with dental problems, with his lack of doveishness during the Vietnam era. Readers will recognize in these memories scenes and snippets from his novels, fragments of which are provided. As always, Updike is an intelligent writer, and this book is essential. - John Budd, Graduate Lib. Sch., Univ. of Arizona, Tucson Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. About the Author John Updike
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