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Summary and book reviews of My Father's Tears by John Updike

My Father's Tears

by John Updike

My Father's Tears
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2009, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2010, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natasha Vargas-Cooper

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About this Book

Book Summary

John Updike’s first collection of new short fiction since the year 2000, My Father’s Tears finds the author in a valedictory mood as he mingles narratives of his native Pennsylvania with stories of New England suburbia and of foreign travel.

“Personal Archaeology” considers life as a sequence of half-buried layers, and “The Full Glass” distills a lifetime’s happiness into one brimming moment of an old man’s bedtime routine. High-school class reunions, in “The Walk with Elizanne” and “The Road Home,” restore their hero to youth’s commonwealth where, as the narrator of the title story confides, “the self I value is stored, however infrequently I check on its condition.” Exotic locales encountered in the journeys of adulthood include Morocco, Florida, Spain, Italy, and India. The territory of childhood, with its fundamental, formative mysteries, is explored in “The Guardians,” “The Laughter of the Gods,” and “Kinderszenen.” Love’s fumblings among the bourgeoisie yield the tart comedy of “Free,” “Delicate Wives,” “The Apparition,” and “Outage.”

In sum, American experience from the Depression to the aftermath of 9/11 finds reflection in these glittering pieces of observation, remembrance, and imagination.

Morocco

The seacoast road went smoothly up and down, but compared with an American highway it was eerily empty. Other cars appeared menacing on it, approaching like bullets, straddling the center strip. Along the roadside, alone in all that sunswept space, little girls in multicolored Berber costume held out bouquets of flowers—violets? poppies?—which we were afraid to stop and accept. What were we afraid of? A trap. Bandits. Undertipping, or overtipping. Not knowing enough French, and no Arabic or Berber. “Don’t stop, Daddy, don’t!” was the cry; and it was true, when we did stop at markets, interested persons out of the local landscape would gather about our rented Renault, peering in and offering unintelligible invitations.

We were an American family living in England in 1969 and had come to Morocco naïvely thinking it would be, in April, as absolute an escape to the sun as a trip to the Caribbean from the Eastern United States would be at the ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

After reading the first story in this collection, I remembered something Martin Amis wrote about Updike: "having read him once, you admit to yourself, almost with a sigh that you will have to read everything he writes." Updike chronicles the lives of widowers, divorcees, adulterers, fathers with lyrical accuracy and savory insight... his sentences are acrobatic; they’re deft and complicated, flowery but shockingly lucid.   (Reviewed by Natasha Vargas-Cooper).

Full Review Members Only (759 words).

Media Reviews

The Los Angeles Times

... an uneven and grimly literal collection of fiction that reprises -- and repraises -- the author's childhood, chronicles the indignities of old age, describes in nearly guidebook fashion far-off travels and lingers over detritus found in a home that sounds very much like the one Updike occupied until his death.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

Mr. Updike writes in these stories…with the quiet assurance of someone in complete control of his craft…he sticks here to what he does best: memorializing the mundane, the ordinary joys and sorrows and confusions of suburban middle class life.

The Guardian (UK) - Martin Amis

[These] stories are as quietly inconclusive as Updike's stories usually are; but now, denuded of a vibrant verbal surface, they sometimes seem to be neither here nor there - products of nothing more than professional habit... [but] Updike's creations live, and authorial love is what sustains them.

Christian Science Monitor

... as hyper-articulate and resonant as any he’s written, and to my taste, more convincing and evocative than his late novels

The Washington Post - Ron Hansen

My Father's Tears is a self-conscious salute to a grand career of imagining and gorgeously describing our America, along with a wink of gratitude to those readers who have shared the journey.

Publishers Weekly

With masterly assurance, Updike transforms the familiar into the mysterious.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Like his ancient characters, Updike rambles on at times, but no one will complain.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. [T]he ache of knowing and celebrating how we've lived, what it all may mean and where we're going give this final testament a beauty and gravity that crown a brilliant, enduring life's work and legacy. A fine final act.

Reader Reviews

Cary Branscum

outta the box; a pre-read review
That's right, haven't read it, going to. Let me tell you why so you will read it too. John Updike inhabits each word he writes, each story, each book. He is without peer in chronicling the American suburban hearts, feelings, dreads, joys, and detail ...   Read More

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The Anti-Updikeans

"I'd like to offer assurances that your reviewer is not one of these spleen-venting, spittle-spattering Updike-haters one encounters among literary readers under 40. The fact is that I am probably classifiable as one of very few actual sub-40 Updike fans."

This quote comes from an essay by David Foster Wallace, the upstart author of the late 90's, published in The New York Observer in 1997. Though Wallace's essay on Updike is not "spleen-venting" it is absolutely scalding and is the sacred document of the Anti-Updike faction on college campuses. It's considered the rallying cry that spurred the literary backlash against The Great White Male. According to Wallace, Updike was the chronicler and the voice of "the most ...

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