TOSSING AND TURNING by John Updike

TOSSING AND TURNING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Industrious novelist John Updike has rounded up another collection of verse, and lo! in this medium he grows serious even while his novels turn into "entertainments." (He has a poem about this: "The Jolly Greene Giant.") Some themes recur: things spat out (mouse-bones from owls, delicately, in "Dream and Reality"; Harvard College and its graduates, amusingly, in the Phi Beta Kappa Poem for 1973), the relation of cog to chain, and, always, insomnia. Updike has two voices in verse: flat, prosy, non-metaphoric--and bouncy, jingly, syllabic. Part I of Tossing and Turning is grave and unadorned, what critics of 16th-century poetry call "drab." Some of this reaches back to the Olinger days, as in "Leaving Church Early": "how busy we were forgiving--/ we had no time, of course, we have no time/ to do all the forgiving that we must do." In Part II, Updike resumes the lighthearted voice he used so well in The Carpentered Hen, Telephone Poles, and Midpoint, but self-pity slips in. "Authors' Residences: After Visiting Hartford," compares his own modest accommodations to the grander houses of Mark Twain and Wallace Stevens. "Writers, know your place/before it grows too modest to be known" . . . . One wonders, still, on what principle poets divide their volumes; what distinguishes Updike's Part III? It contains some of the book's best poems (and the sexiest) but some light verse too. Perhaps they are the ones the author likes best. Each reader will make his own choice.
Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
ISBN: 0233969438
Page count: 90pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1977




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