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Here's a lot more suburban sex and Protestant redemption—22 stories to be exact—from one of America's most prolific and accomplished prose stylists. Over half of these elegantly written tales were first published in The New Yorker, and over half find their subject in divorce, upper-middle-class American style. In "Still of Some Use," for example, a family torn apart by divorce momentarily comes together to clean out their old attic. "The City" captures a divorced salesman's "essential solitude"; "Pygmalion" ironically comments upon second wives; and "The Lovely Troubled Daughters of Our Old Crowd" measures the effect of divorce on some girls of marrying age. But not all of Updike's angst-ridden adulterers bother to get divorced. In "A Constellation of Events," a "bored housewife" has an affair with a cuckolded friend; and in "The Other Woman," the lover of a woman amicably divorced from her husband doesn't divorce his own wife, who's been unaware of his long-term affair. Inter-class adultery spices up the excellent "More Stately Mansions," a tale that explores "the abyss that adult life is." "Getting Into the Set" and "The Wallet" go straight to the heart of suburban "dread," the first gently mocking the efforts of a young wife to join her town's "in" crowd, and the second recording the self-created traumas of a retired commuter. While the less characteristic "One More Interview" succeeds as the strange confession of a prominent actor, the unusual Latin American setting of "The Ideal Village" doesn't work here at all. Work, or its absence in the life of an artist, provides the subject of "Learn a Trade," and cancer is the pretext for the religious perorations in "Made in Heaven." Both come together in "Poker Night," where a working-class stiff keeps his poker date, even though he's just found out he has cancer. Consistently shimmering prose can't relieve the deadening sameness of Updike's narratives, too many of which rely on easy ironies and predictable patterns of behavior.

Pub Date: May 1, 1987

ISBN: 0449912175

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1987

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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