Sixties’ reviewer compares Rabbit to Holden Caulfield

Reading early reviews of now-acclaimed novels is always a fun pastime, and Literary Hub tickled readers with reprinted excerpts from David Boroff’s Nov. 6, 1960 New York Times review of Rabbit, Run, along with a cheerily tawdry cover of a reprint edition of the novel:

“At the beginning of this moving and often brilliant novel, ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom quietly watches a group of boys playing basketball. Then, shedding his coat, he joins them at play, demonstrating superbly the virtuosity that eight years earlier had made him the star of his high school team. This opening defines the mood of nostalgia and unquiet adulthood that characterizes John Updike’s Rabbit, Run.

“Rabbit is an older and less articulate Holden Caulfield. An urban cipher, he is trapped by wife, baby, an uncongenial job as demonstrator for a new kitchen utensil.

“‘You get the feeling,’ he says, ‘you’re in your coffin before they’ve taken your blood.’ Like his younger prototype, he is an uneasy picaresque hero who discovers you can run but cannot really flee. And in back of all the restlessness there is an unslaked thirst for spiritual truth.”

“This is the stuff of shabby domestic tragedy—and Mr. Updike spares the reader none of the spiritual poverty of the milieu. The old people are listless and defeated, the young noisily empty. The novel, nevertheless, is a notable triumph of intelligence and compassion; it has none of the glib condescension that spoils so many books of this type. The characters have an imposing complexity.”

“The author’s style is particularly impressive: artful and supple, its brilliance is belied by its relaxed rhythms. Mr. Updike has a knack of tilting his observations just a little, so that even a commonplace phrase catches the light. The prose is that rarest of achievements: a perfectly pitched voice for the subject.

“The treatment of sex commands our attention. For Rabbit, its expression is the final measure of the quality of experience. The author is utterly explicit in his portrayal of Rabbit’s divagations—but the description is as seemly as it is candid, for Mr. Updike is primarily interested in the psychic underside of sexuality. Nevertheless, there are some not easily-ignored footnotes about the erotic sophistication of the post-war generation that will shock the prudish.

Rabbit, Run is a tender and discerning study of the desperate and the hungering in our midst. A modest work, it points to a talent of large dimensions—already proved in the author’s New Yorker stories, and his first novel, The Poorhouse Fair. John Updike, still only 28 years old, is a man to watch.”

Updike’s Witches are reappraised 330 years after Salem

In “Revisiting The Witches of Eastwick 330 Years After Salem” for the Chicago Review of Books, Chicago-based writer Sara Batkie writes, “Fifty-odd years ago, covens were the locus of Satanic activity in such movies and books as Rosemary’s Baby and Suspiria. But the rise of second-wave feminism and women in the workforce in the late ’70s and early ’80s gave way to a gentler, more domestic spellcaster, a trend arguably initiated by John Updike’s 1984 novel The Witches of Eastwick and the film adaptation three years later.”

After giving credit where she thinks credit is due, Batkie offers a refrain that’s familiar to Updike readers: “Most of his previous work was steeped in middle class realism, bound by such earthly concerns as which friend’s wife to sleep with and the masculine urge to escape from familial obligations. The inner lives of women were not often foregrounded, to put it generously, though Updike was one of our most skilled sensualists, and it’s clear he admired the ‘fairer sex,’ even if he didn’t always understand them.”

Batkie suggests that maybe Updike added witchcraft to his first real attempt to write about the inner lives of women in order to “hedge his bets. If something didn’t ring true to his female readership, it could be attributed to the three women’s unique powers.”

Batkie gives the film higher marks than the novel when 2022 feminism is the standard, but concludes, “So where does that leave us today, post-third-wave and likely post-Roe? Though neither Updike nor [director George] Miller set out to predict our fracturing present, both versions of The Witches of Eastwick now feel like a warning, or at least a precaution. Magic has its limits, both personally and politically. A woman’s right to bodily autonomy is no longer a fringe belief, no matter what men in power like Alito might think.”

Batkie is the author of Better Times: Short Stories, which won the 2017 Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction. Read her whole Chicago Review of Books essay here.

Fellow psoriasis sufferer cites Updike’s bravery

In a review for The Guardian [U.K.], “Skin by Sergio del Molino review—a meditation on psoriasis and the psyche; A sufferer writes about how the skin condition affected figures as diverse as Joseph Stalin, John Updike and Cyndi Lauper,” Houman Barekat notes that del Molino was 21 when he first experienced psoriasis symptoms.

Barekat summarizes the affliction: “a chronic autoimmune condition that causes an overproduction of epidermal cells, resulting in scaling on the surface of the skin” that “appear in red blotches that sometimes crack and bleed.” Barekat identifies the accompanying related symptoms—arthritis, back pain, chronic fatigue—and zeroes in on del Molino’s contrast between the way that the disease affected Stalin (and his two henchmen who also had psoriasis) and Updike:

“Conversely, on a happier note, Updike credited his psoriasis as the driving force of his talent, remarking in his memoirs that: ‘Whenever in my timid life I have shown some courage and originality it has been because of my skin.'”

Updike famously wrote about his psoriasis in “At War with My Skin,” which was first published in The New Yorker and then became one of the central essays in Self-Consciousness: A Memoir (1989). Handwritten jottings that appear to be the start of the essay are on display at The John Updike Childhood Home in Shillington, Pa.

Del Molino also referred to Updike in his Dec. 16, 2021 opinion piece that was published in The New York Times: “Very few dared to write in any depth about their illness. John Updike is one exception. He dedicated a novel and part of his memoirs to psoriasis, and it was thanks to those that I became aware of my own monstrous nature. I wrote a book to explain myself through these figures. My life, like theirs, is governed by my skin condition.” Part of that quote appears as well in del Molino’s first-person account written for Asharq Al-Awsat on Dec. 25, 2021 titled “What Makes Me a Monster.”

Book explores Updike and others as religious writers

Books published during the COVID quarantine tend not to be on anyone’s radar, but one of them just came to our attention: Listening for God: Malamud, O’Connor, Updike & Morrison, by Peter C. Brown (Mercer University Press, 2020).

Of course, Brown isn’t alone in considering Updike as a religious writer. The very first monograph on Updike, Alice and Kenneth Hamilton’s The Elements of John Updike (1970), heavily weighed the Protestantism that underscored much of Updike’s fiction, and James Yerkes’ John Updike and Religion: The Sense of the Sacred and the Motions of Grace (1999) broached the subject from a variety of perspectives. More recently, another Mercer University Press publication, Cosmic Defiance: Updike’s Kierkegaard and the Maples Stories, by David Crowe, explored the religious-philosophical implications of Updike’s Richard and Joan Maple stories.

If you’re wondering if there’s anything left to say, in literary scholarship the answer is almost always yes. That’s certainly the case with this book by Brown, who taught philosophy and Great books for 40+ years at Mercer University.

As the press release for this volume points out, “Peter Brown offers a highly interdisciplinary examination of these four authors who represent four different faith traditions within Judeo-Christianity: Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and syncretistic (blending Africanist creole beliefs with Catholicism). All subversive writers, they work in extraordinary ways to undermine their own stories and open us, their readers, to something more, something that transcends time and fate.”

The key phrase here is “undermine their own stories,” and Brown is careful to draw a distinction between the protagonists, the narrator, and the author, and to note how these authors interrogate religion with their own brand of dialectical approach. He’s careful to draw a distinction between Updike and his alter ego, Rabbit Angstrom.

The Updike chapter, “Updike’s Secular Pilgrims,” has a title that may seem familiar to readers well-versed in Updike criticism. But Brown finds more to say. He focuses on the Rabbit novels and novella. “What is Rabbit’s problem?” Brown asks in the subtitled section dealing with the first novel. “He is looking within for a vaguely remembered God.” Brown asks, “What are we meant to think of Rabbit? The question is inescapable—Updike insists that we ask it.” While considering the conundrum of God’s judgment, Brown posits, “It’s not the content of the judgment that matters or its casuist application; it’s the vertical dimension it opens in Being: the Sacred. Updike defeats every attempt to bring Rabbit within the ordinary gambit of right and wrong—without abandoning him to the worship of his own worst (or best) instincts.”

By the time of Rabbit Redux, Brown argues, “Rabbit as ‘Christian’ everyman fits the parody. He is burdened with a Biblical sense of sin and been told (in that long ago Sunday school) that salvation/resurrection is promised. Unable to find his own way to the Celestial City of deliverance, instead he follows a ‘shining light’ that only he sees and leaves his wife and children to pursue it.”

With Rabbit Is Rich, Brown suggests that Kruppenbach’s question to Jack Eccles resonates: “How does God see all this? In 1980, America is Updike’s Sodom and Gomorrah—there is no redeeming factor ….” But in Rabbit at Rest, “Updike nudges Rabbit onto a larger stage, not just the evolving tragi-comic setting for his picaresque antics in the first three novels, but a secular world remorselessly molding him from the inside out . . . as he struggles nevertheless to shape a moral realm within his kingdom of self. Whatever it was in Rabbit that sustained Updike’s attention over three decades and four novels rises toward a kind of tragic nobility as he grapples with his mortality and with his son, his only hedge against mortality.”

Such insights resonate even more when read against the conclusions that Brown draws about the fictions of Bernard Malamud, Flannery O’Connor, and Toni Morrison. It’s a welcome addition to Updike studies.

The book, in hardcover, is 255 pages long, priced at $35. Here’s the Amazon link.

Updike libretto featured in new Boston Modern Orchestra Project release

It’s not available on CD yet, but Amazon has unlimited free streaming and MP3s of the new release from the Boston Modern Orchestra Project:  Gunther Schuller’s The Fisherman and His Wife, with libretto by John Updike. Full details are in the booklet provided by BMOP.

In reviewing the MP3s for, Kitty Drexel writes,

The Fisherman and His Wife is based on the Grimm Fairytale. As forewarned by the orchestra, this isn’t your Dad’s happy-go-lucky, Disneyfied fairy tale. Schuller and librettist John Updike set the German tale with its depressing end. It tells of humanity’s great greed and warns that abusive marriages without respectful boundaries are doomed to fail.

“Once upon a time, somewhere in Germany or maybe in your own town by the sea, an impoverished Fisherman (Steven Goldstein) catches an enchanted flounder (David Kravitz). The flounder convinces the Fisherman that he is actually a prince! The Prince claims that he ‘shall not taste well.’

“Back at home, his Wife (Sondra Kelly) hurls abuse at the Fisherman for letting the Prince go. She says that the Fisherman should have asked the Prince for a wish. The Fisherman is confused. He likes his simple life. His home may only be as small as a vinegar jar but he has a loving wife, a loyal cat (Katrina Galka), and a home. The Wife convinces the Fisherman to go back to the Prince to ask for a luxurious cottage where they could live in ease. It’s the least the Prince could do since the Fisherman saved his life.

“As in all fairy tales, the Wife isn’t content with just a cottage. She tests the Prince’s powers. She demands from the Prince a castle, then a kingdom because she wants to be King, then to be Emporer, to be Pope, and then finally to be as powerful as God. Each time the simple Fisherman goes to the Prince and asks for the wishes that his wife demands. Each time the Prince grants the wish and tells the Fisherman to go home because the wish has been granted. Only the last wish bears unexpected results. The Fisherman, his Wife, and their Cat must learn to live with the consequences of their greed.”

Drexel concludes, “Schuller’s opera isn’t easily digestible for every age.  Adults hoping to introduce the next generation to opera could use The Fisherman and His Wife to do so. But, it will require critical discussion. On the other hand, John Updike’s clever lyrics are safe for the whole family.”


Updike a misogynist? Not according to these writers

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom and several of John Updike’s other male characters have a stratospheric sex drive and a habit of pursuing sexual gratification so often that their antics have led to charges of misogyny in the #MeToo era. But not according to two women who recently considered several of Updike’s novels.

In reviewing Updike Novels 1968-1975 (LOA edition, ed. Christopher Carduff), which includes Couples, Rabbit Redux, and A Month of Sundays, Kate Padilla writes on Author Link that “Harry doesn’t appear that bothered” when his wife leaves to move in with her lover in this “dark and disturbing novel, laced with sensual details, common in the other Updike novels in this volume.” But Padilla adds, Updike’s “descriptive, voluminous prose is both dazzling and racy. . . . He skillfully blended extraordinary details in character-driven stories, and the chronology included in this volume offers insights into how he developed his fictional interactions.”

Meanwhile, in her thoughtful consideration of “the best books about female artists,” Annalena McAfee considers a later Updike novel: “John Updike trained as an artist and turned his observational gifts to fiction, using words with the gorgeous precision of the finest sable brush. In Seek My Face, his meta-subject is Amerian art since the 1940s, but the focus is a female painter, Hope Chafetz, unfairly but predictably known less for her work than for the men she married (two celebrated artists). There is a roman-à-clef element, summoning echoes of Lee Krasner impatiently batting away questions about Jackson Pollock, as Updike’s elderly painter is interviewed by a thrusting young female art historian. It’s hard to detect in Updike’s extraordinary portrayal of both women the die-hard misogynist depicted by recent critics. He’s as good on female ageing as he is on art, and behind the unsparing observations of humanity, with all its flaws and vulnerabilities, lies a rueful compassion.

“‘All a woman does for a man…’ Hope reflects, ‘is secondary, inessential. Art was what these men had love—that is, themselves.'”

Is John Updike a ‘Malfunctioning Sex Robot’?

That’s the charge Patricia Lockwood levels after she’s charged with reading and reviewing Novels, 1959-65: The Poorhouse Fair; Rabbit, Run; The Centaur; Of the Farm, by John Updike for the London Review of Books. And she skewers Updike with the kind of zest the likes of which haven’t been seen since David Foster Wallace (quoted here) used to pillory Updike (“a penis with a thesaurus”) and other “Great White Male Narcissists.” It’s almost as if she’s hoping one of her own derogatory turns-of-phrase will be likewise immortalized.

See “Malfunctioning Sex Robot” for an entertaining, fascinating, mostly negative but partly positive take on Updike from someone who approaches the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner as a dog walker stoops with a plastic bag to complete her civic obligation.

She confesses her bias openly, in the first paragraph:  “I was hired as an assassin. You don’t bring in a 37-year-old woman to review John Updike in the year of our Lord 2019 unless you’re hoping to see blood on the ceiling.” She writes, “In a 1997 review for the New York Observer, the recently kinged David Foster Wallace diagnosed how far Updike had fallen in the esteem of a younger generation. ‘Penis with a thesaurus’ is the phrase that lives on. . . . Today, he has fallen even further, still, in the pantheon but marked by an embarrassed asterisk: DIED OF PUSSY-HOUNDING. No one can seem to agree on his surviving merits. He wrote like an angel, the consensus goes, except when he was writing like a malfunctioning sex robot attempting to administer cunnilingus to his typewriter. Offensive criticism of him is often reductive, while defensive criticism has a strong flavour of people-are-being-mean-to-my-dad. There’s so much of him, spread over so much time, that perhaps everyone has read a different John Updike. . . . The more I read of him the more there was, like a fable.”

“When he is in flight you are glad to be alive. When he comes down wrong—which is often—you feel the sickening turn of an ankle, a real nausea. All the flaws that will become fatal later are present in the beginning. He has a three-panel cartoonist’s sense of plot. The dialogue is a weakness: in terms of pitch, it’s half a step sharp, too nervily and jumpily tuned to the tics and italics and slang of the era. And yes, there are his women. Janice is a grotesquerie with a watery drink in one hand and a face full of television static; her emotional needs are presented as a gaping, hungry and above all unseemly hole, surrounded by well-described hair. He paints and paints them but the proportions are wrong. He is like a God who spends four hours on the shading on Eve’s upper lip, forgets to give her a clitoris, and then decides to rest on Tuesday. In the scene where Janice drunkenly drowns the baby, it wasn’t the character I felt pity for but Updike, fumbling so clumsily to get inside her that in the end it’s his hands that get slippery, drop the baby.”

Patricia Lockwood is a poet whose memoir, Priestdaddy, was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 by The New York Times. Her full review—in the London Review of Books Vol. 41 No. 19, 10 October 2019, the Anniversary Issue: Part One—isn’t just a hatchet job. It’s a thorough and thoughtful reconsideration of Updike then through the eyes of a woman now, and that’s fascinating.  The #metoo movement has claimed a number of casualties, most of them deserved. But it has to leave today’s male writers wondering if any of them can ever be as completely honest as Updike was about  sex and relations with women, or if that ship has sailed . . . and long ago sunk.



TLS writer tells why people should continue to read John Updike

On July 2, 2019 TLS published “Giving him his due; Claire Lowdon on why we should still read John Updike,” with a companion podcast that meanders a bit more than the article itself.

Lowdon resurrects and rejects David Foster Wallace’s “Great Male Narcissist” charge, saying, “In 2019 we have lots of things to say about autobiography and self-absorption, but string them together and you get some very snarly knicker elastic indeed. Is self-absorbed fiction always narcissistic, or only if it’s written by a straight white male?”

Lowdon also asks, of the attacks on Bellow, Updike, Roth, “then . . . Martin Amis? Ian McEwan? . . . . The tide is undeniably on its way out, sucking at the shins of Jonathan Franzen and Safran Foer, authors who didn’t get the memo, and persist in writing big, confident novels full of sex and thinly veiled autobiography.”

In taking on Wallace’s implied contention that Toward the End of Time should have contained “more about Mexico’s repossession of the American Southwest and less about penises,” Lowdon scolds, “This breaches the first of Updike’s own elegant rules for reviewing, as stated in the introduction to his prose collection Picked-Up Pieces (1975): ‘Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.’

“But 2019 wants to know why we should play by Updike’s rules. Increasingly, fiction is judged on content over style. Updike chooses to write about an asshole with a penis: if you don’t want to read a book about assholes with penises, then Updike has written a bad book,” Lowdon writes, tongue-in-cheek.

All that said, she proceeds to review the Library of America’s reissued volume of Updike’s first four novels, pointing out the “cracks and damp patches so that you know exactly what it is you’re getting into. Because Updike’s apartment in the many-windowed House of Fiction is a beautiful place, and it would be a great shame if people stopped hanging out there altogether.”

Later, Lowdon writes of the “male gaze”, “As a woman, I’d rather be looked at by Updike than lectured at by Wallace. And as a reader, I’ll take any number of ill-judged mythological parallels and over-ambitious sentences [in The Centaur] for the generous quantities of ‘rich life-cake’, in Bellow’s phrase, that Updike serves up.'”

Read the full article.

Reissue of Updike’s early novels provokes mixed reactions

Library of America published John Updike: Novels 1959-1965 last November in what amounted to a quiet reissue of the author’s first four novels: The Poorhouse Fair; Rabbit, Run; The Centaur; and Of the Farm. What few reviews that emerged have been almost as ambivalent as those from when Updike first began publishing. Only the “charge” is different. Then it was “He writes like an angel but has nothing to say”; now it’s “Misogynist!”

In his PopMatters review, “Approach ‘John Updike: Novels 1959-1965’ with Indulgence, Patience, and Caution,” Christopher John Stephens acknowledges that Updike was “a formalist, a structuralist, a fantabulist, a writer as steeped in Nathaniel Hawthorne as he was in the pleasures of golfing and the baseball majesty of Ted Williams.” Then the ambivalence starts to seep in: “He wrote some of the most stilted and painfully clumsy bad sex in his ’60s novels and some of the more stunning evocations of longing and regret ever seen in the mid-20th century American white male.” The Poorhouse Fair, he writes, is an “impressive debut. It’s also a hard novel to enter or even like,” while he calls The Centaur “another novel burdened by the yoke of significance”—that “Updike knows his Greek myths, and reading this carefully balanced story is less enjoyable than admirable.”

Later in his review Stephens assesses Updike’s prose style: “Nothing is inherently wrong with these passages. They’re just too precise, too tightly wound.” And regarding Rabbit’s behavior in the first book of the tetralogy, he says, “Updike can’t have it both ways. He can’t be condemning a heartless misogynist while primarily entertaining us by making Rabbit the ping pong ball bouncing between his ‘virgin’ wife mother of his child (Janice) and ex-prostitute girlfriend (Ruth).”

Stephens concludes, “Overall, the reader should approach this volume with equal parts indulgence, patience, and caution. The first should be applied to Updike’s youthful flowery prose and apparent need to impress with each line. The second should be applied to Updike’s tendency to painfully stretch out descriptions in clinical ways. As for the third application, caution, that applies to the carefree racism and horribly misogynistic undertone to the sex scenes and ongoing gender war. Caution can be easily applied, but forgiveness might take more time from even the most patient reader.” Yet he gives the book a 7 on a 10-point scale.

In an assessment written for National Review, “John Updike saw the World as It Was,” Peter Tonguette considers those same four early novels and concludes, “As this collection of his early novels emphatically establishes, Updike was that rare writer whose strength was not in allowing his imagination to wander hither and yon, but in keeping his eyes fixed on what was right in front of him.”

Although Tonguette praises Updike’s “level-headed precision” and calls Rabbit, Run a “dazzling opening book of what evolved into a much-honored tetralogy,” he does write that “stunts mar more than one early Updike work. The Poorhouse Fair–a well-crafted novel that revolves around the denizens of a poorhouse–unaccountably takes place not in or around the year it was written but decades down the line. . . . More unsatisfying still is The Centaur,” with its contemporary story of a father and son “augmented by references to Greek mythology, notably the half-human, half-horse title creature, written in a windy, pretentious style.” Not surprisingly, he calls Of the Farm “the most satisfying offering included here” because of its “careful account of sights and sounds and smells” and concludes, “In the years to come, the Library of America plans to release the balance of Updike’s novels. The best of them are more akin to the earthbound Of the Farm than to The Poorhouse Fair or The Centaur, with their strained, fantastical conceits.

On Updike’s birthday, site unearths the first “Rabbit” reviews

The “Book Marks” website celebrated what would have been John Updike’s 87th birthday with a list of early reviews to the “Rabbit” novels for which the author is most famous. Here are a few of them:

“Rabbit, Run is a tender and discerning study of the desperate and the hungering in our midst. A modest work, it points to a talent of large dimensions—already prove in the author’s New Yorker stories and his first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, John Updike, still only 28 years old, is a man to watch.”

–David Boroff, The New York Times, November 6, 1960

“There is a great deal in Rabbit Redux, but only because John Updike has put it there. There is more activity than purposefulness: an intricate scheme of parallelisms with the moon shot; a rich (but in the end funked or slighted) sense of possible parallels between oral sex and verbalism or certain verbal habits; likewise a sense of parallels between the job of linotyping and the job of writing. The book is cleverer than a barrel full of monkeys, and about as odd in its relation of form to content. It never decides just what the artistic reasons (sales and nostalgia are another matter) were for bringing back Rabbit instead of starting anew; its existence is likely to do retrospective damage to that better book Rabbit, Run.”

–Christopher Ricks, The New York Review of Books, December 16, 1971

“If Rabbit Is Rich has a central theme it has to do with the one-directional nature of life: life, always waiting to be death. Rabbit swans on down the long slide, clumsy, lax and brutish, but vaguely trying.

“The technical problem posed by Rabbit is a familiar and fascinating one. How to see the world through the eyes of the occluded, the myopic, the wilfully blind? At its best the narrative is a rollicking comedy of ironic omission, as author and reader collude in their enjoyment of Rabbit’s pitiable constriction. Conversely, the empty corners and hollow spaces of the story fill with pathos, the more poignant for being unremarked.”

–Martin Amis, The Observer, January 17, 1982

“Rabbit at Rest is certainly the most brooding, the most demanding, the most concentrated of John Updike’s longer novels. Its courageous theme—the blossoming and fruition of the seed of death we all carry inside us—is struck in the first sentence … This early note, so emphatically struck, reverberates through the length of the novel and invests its domestic-crisis story with an unusual pathos. For where in previous novels, most famously in Couples (1968), John Updike explored the human body as Eros, he now explores the body, in yet more detail, as Thanatos. One begins virtually to share, with the doomed Harry Angstrom, a panicky sense of the body’s terrible finitude, and of its place in a world of other, competing bodies: ‘You fill a slot for a time and then move out; that’s the decent thing to do: make room.’”

–Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times, September 30, 1990

“The centerpiece of [Licks of Love]—and the one compelling reason to read it—is a novella-length piece called ‘Rabbit Remembered,’ a sad-funny postscript to Mr. Updike’s quartet of Rabbit novels, which takes up the story of Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom’s family and friends as they try to come to terms with his death and chart the remainder of their own lives.

“As in his last Rabbit novel, Mr. Updike writes with fluent access to Harry Angstrom’s world, chronicling the developments in his hero’s small Pennsylvania hometown with the casual ease of a longtime intimate. With compassion and bemused affection, he traces the many large and small ways in which Harry’s actions continue to reverberate through the lives of his widow, Janice, and their son, Nelson, and the equally myriad ways in which their decisions are influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by their memories of him.

–Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times, November 7, 2000