Times writer reconsiders Updike’s Couples

UK First Edition/First Printing

In “Rereading: Couples by John Updike review—a melancholy anatomy of adultery,” David Mills began, “John Updike’s 1968 novel Couples has a notorious reputation: it is regarded as a sex book, an explicit manual of swinging high jinks in the ‘post-pill paradise’ of the early 1960s.” He conceded, “There certainly are passages that come across as route-one porn” and provided examples, but took exception with David Foster Wallace’s well-known description of Updike as “just a penis with a thesaurus.”

Within Couples‘ “five-section structure, one unconventionally focuses entirely away from the main character of Dutch builder Piet Hanema, and the prose itself can be tricky, with Piet given stream-of-consciousness interior monologues of almost Joycean complexity.

“Above all, this is a novel about sexual dynamics that in its choreography of shifting relationships becomes a melancholy anatomy of adultery,” Mills wrote, with this qualification: “Of course, it is a white, phallocentric novel with moments of racial stereotyping and casual male violence that make us blench now, but if its social attitudes and assumptions haven’t aged well, then neither have Jane Austen’s.”

Read the full review published in The Sunday Times [UK].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *