But my father did foresee, the glitter in his eyes told me, that time consumes us—that the boy I had been was dying if not already dead, and we would have less and less to do with each other. By day, the waves were too choppy to swim in, and the Mediterranean was not so much wine-dark as oil-black. In his early books Updike seemed to treat sex as an erotic amusement park but in these last stories sex seems to be more plain, natural, and an important part of being human. The main characters are nearly all adult males, most older, retired, or elderly. Even on the rough back road to Tafraout, into the stony hills of the Low Atlas, with the gas gauge saying zero and not a house, not a sheep or goat, in sight, a little girl in a dip of the unpaved track held out a handful of flowers. Jesus, what a huge bore this was to read.
She sighed; the cable under the ocean crackled. There had been an unpredicted snow squall, whose sullied traces were still around us, and she was angry to the point of tears at having been given, because of her college education, in the restaurant where she was a part-time waitress, the assignment of adding up numbers in the basement while the other waitresses pocketed all the tips. Pochi elementi, alcune figure sempre le stesse: il padre, la madre, un matrimonio che muore, un bambino che lo percepisce si stagliano, limpide, in racconti liberati dagli ornamenti superflui. His characters are more appealing and there is a softer, gentler acknowledgement of their suffering. Updike does not have the answers, but he points out the signposts along the way. Her temper was part of my growing up, like Pennsylvania mugginess and the hot spells that could kill old people in their stifling row houses and expand the steel tracks on the street enough to derail trolley cars. He had loved me; it came to me as never before.
We had been commuters to the same high school, he as a teacher and I as a student, in secondhand cars that on more than one occasion failed to start, or got stuck in a snowstorm. The road here had become one with the rocks of a dry riverbed, so our Renault was moving slowly, so slowly she had time, when she saw we were truly not going to stop, to whip our fenders with the flowers and to throw them at the open car window. When the day was sunny, and heating the tub water on the kerosene stove seemed too much trouble, we bathed in the mountain creek an easy walk from the house, in a pond whose dam her father had designed and built. Louis, it had no people in it. I think his main point was that people I love Updike, so it was sad reading his last book of short stories. On the side of Heathrow away from London there turned out to be a world of new, tall hotels for passengers in transit.
The normally fluid writing of Updike seems to have developed a different rhythm, and I had to re-read some of the longer sentences to fall back into the flow. At age 26, Rabbit abandons his wife and young son and moves in with a prostitute. But the end, I felt like I was creating some of the stories. All the life it had once contained was sealed into silence, and for most of the rest of the century it ignominiously waited, in this city where progress was slow, to be razed. Along the roadside, alone in all that sunswept space, little girls in multicolored Berber costume held out bouquets of flowers — violets? We waved sheepishly through the smirched glass. The rest fell onto the asphalt beside her feet. Among all the writers of our time, he was the most gifted in illuminating the phenomenological world.
In Tangier, the swaying bus was exchanged for a single overloaded taxi, whose driver in his desire to unload us came into the Hertz office and tried to help the negotiations along. That being said, Updike constructs some beautiful images and sentimental sentences. This was a special lamp, which intensified and whitened the glow of a flame with a mantle, a kind of conical net of ash so delicate it could be broken by even a carelessly rough setting-down of the glass base on the table. You knew when you married me I had blood. Yet there are four stories in this collection, two near the start and two near the end, which approach Updike's best work. Had I been able to produce also the pale green of an American Express card, our suspenseful career down the coast, from Tangier to Rabat to Casablanca and then through the narrower streets of El Jadida and Essaouira and Tafraout, would have been greatly eased, for at each hotel it was necessary to beg the clerk to accept a personal check on a London bank, and none but the most expensive hotels would risk it; hence the odd intervals of luxury that punctuated our penurious flight from the Mediterranean winds.
They are saying good-bye at a train station. Updike depicts a world of immature characters, endless lust, serial adultery, and permanent personal isolation. We had reservations for the Uffizi tomorrow. There was room at the back of the bus. They are generally alone now, isolated, divorced; feeling dissatisfied and perplexed; facing irrelevance, meaninglessness, and death. Likewise, the sets become claustrophobic, the tone aridly cognitive-intellectual, and all the characters and locations start to blend into just a few archetypes. We stopped the rented Renault and with trepidation walked across the grass, single-file, feeling again huge, as when we trod deeper into that fragrant bus.
Updike depicts a world of immature characters, endless lust, serial adultery, and permanent personal isolation. The characters are so alive, and the writing so lyrical, that one becomes deeply immersed. Morocco The seacoast road went smoothly up and down, but compared with an American highway it was eerily empty. I have not read Updike before but this collection seems a rather transparent recollection of his own short stories. It shocks me, at my high-school class reunions, when my classmates bother to tell me how much they prefer my second wife. I probably shouldn't have read this, Updike's last collection, first. With an air of amusement all around, this furniture was set on the grassy earth, in a spot we lightly indicated.
Characters go to the store or a dinner party, a class reunion, or have a family vacation in Spain, or join a tour group in India. We boil at different degrees, Emerson said, and a woman came along who had my boiling point. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered. The difference here is that the protagonists in this collection are, for the most part, at the end of their lives, and so the news of familial drama and divorce and the cocktail parties, barbecues and casual wooings of quotidian life in suburbia is given retrospectively, wistfully, presented in the larger context as memories of lost moments and lost opportunities. Many take places in Pennsylvania, where he was born, and featured characters in the last part of their lives. Would this end-moment not have had more pathos and resonance if it followed, say, a chance reunion with the mistress? She tended to underdress in the long New England winter, while I wore the heavy winter coat, with buckled belt and fleecy lining, that my parents had bought me, to my embarrassment, to keep me from catching colds up in New England. I had bought my first pack of cigarettes here, with no protest from the man running the newsstand, though I was a young-looking fifteen.