PROBLEMS by John Updike

PROBLEMS

KIRKUS REVIEW

Divorce is the tonic note of this volume of new Updike stories, his first in seven years. True to form, each story here hugs a particular stage in a man's life--and whether Updike makes him an engineer, potter, or an archaeologist, he's the same sensitive man. Children now are almost fully grown; one wife has been left, another taken. Guilt, skin disease, and other "problems" visit these narrators. Some of the pieces are weed-slight: travelogues of Reno and Ethiopia and a highway vacation with children. The attempts at humor--"Minutes of the Last Meeting"--are predictably lame; also a bit tired are the religious/sexual communions. Strongest, probably because most deeply, passionately felt, are the stories of a divorce in the making: "Separating," about Updike's famille de plume, the Maples, is one of his best. But the surprise of the collection is a story called "Transaction": a married man in a strange city contracting for the services of a street prostitute. Edge and light are contributed here by the straining, word-staining extra inch that Updike goes in order to capture an experience and sensation that's newly shaming; his stories lately have so strongly become personal essays, stacked-up catalogues of reactions, that this departure into nervous newness absorbs, as a risk taken, a stepping out into shaky ground. Otherwise, it's an uneven volume, falling in sum a bit short of prime Updike--but the best stories here are among the best anywhere.
Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1979
ISBN: 0449211037
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1979




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