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Endpoint and Other Poems

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A stunning collection of poems that John Updike wrote during the last seven years of his life and put together only weeks before he died for this, his final book.

The opening sequence, “Endpoint,” is made up of a series of connected poems written on the occasions of his recent birthdays and culminates in his confrontation with his final illness. He looks back on the boy that he was, on the family, the small town, the people, and the circumstances that fed his love of writing, ...

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Endpoint and Other Poems

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Overview

A stunning collection of poems that John Updike wrote during the last seven years of his life and put together only weeks before he died for this, his final book.

The opening sequence, “Endpoint,” is made up of a series of connected poems written on the occasions of his recent birthdays and culminates in his confrontation with his final illness. He looks back on the boy that he was, on the family, the small town, the people, and the circumstances that fed his love of writing, and he finds endless delight and solace in “turning the oddities of life into words.”

“Other Poems” range from the fanciful (what would it be like to be a stolen Rembrandt painting? he muses) to the celebratory, capturing the flux of life. A section of sonnets follows, some inspired by travels to distant lands, others celebrating the idiosyncrasies of nature in his own backyard.

For John Updike, the writing of poetry was always a special joy, and this final collection is an eloquent and moving testament to the life of this extraordinary writer.

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Editorial Reviews

Clive James
Clearly [Updike] had poetic qualities as a writer: he had the imagery, the observation, the rhythm, the delight in making words click into their ideal working order. But it was into his novels that he put these things, was it not? Nobody, and especially not other poets, wanted to think of him as a poet as well. Helpfully, he appeared to think the same. But this posthumous volume, Endpoint: And Other Poems, tells a different story. Consisting entirely of poems he wrote in the last years of his life, it is a serious book indeed.
—The New York Times Book Review
Michael Dirda
Updike's many serious poems are so frankly personal, full of wistfulness and wonder, and unafraid of being sentimental…In their last years, many artists cast aside all their usual flourishes, dismiss the circus animals and simply set down, as directly as possible, the realities and inevitabilities of old age. So John Updike has done in this moving book of poems.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Updike writes in these…poems with the quiet assurance of someone in complete control of his craft.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Many delights but very few surprises await Updike's admirers in this last book of poems from the prolific essayist and novelist, completed only weeks before his death. Much of it gathers calm, casual, loosely rhymed sonnets, first in autobiographical sequences, describing the first and the last years of the poet's life: "Age I must, but die I would rather not... Be with me, words, a little longer." These sequences sketch Arizona and New England; single sonnets, placed later in the collection, offer impressions of Russia, India, the Irish seashore ("like loads of eternal laundry,/ onrolling breaks cresting into foam") and of nearer phenomena, such as the noise made by men fixing Updike's house. Quiet poems pay tribute to golf and golfers, to Eros in old age and to "America, where beneath/ the good cheer and sly jazz the chance/ of failure is everybody's right,/ beginning with baseball." Elegant samples of Updike's celebrated light verse are also in evidence. Mostly, though, these are serious, quiet, low-pressure, frequently elegiac poems, concerned with later life-"old doo-wop stars," for example, "gray hairdos still conked,/ their up-from-the-choir baby faces lined/ with wrinkles now." (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780241144725
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 5/28/2009

Meet the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. He was the father of four children and the author of more than sixty books, including novels and collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His books won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Howells Medal, among other honors. He died in January 2009.

Biography

With an uncommonly varied oeuvre that includes poetry, criticism, essays, short stories, and novels, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike helped to change the face of late-20th-century American literature.

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Updike graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1954. Following a year of study in England, he joined the staff of The New Yorker, establishing a relationship with the magazine that continued until his death in January, 2009. For more than 50 years, he lived in two small towns in Massachusetts that inspired the settings for several of his stories.

In 1958, Updike's first collection of poetry was published. A year later, he made his fiction debut with The Poorhouse Fair. But it was his second novel, 1960's Rabbit, Run, that forged his reputation and introduced one of the most memorable characters in American fiction. Former small-town basketball star Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom struck a responsive chord with readers and critics alike and catapulted Updike into the literary stratosphere.

Updike would revisit Angstrom in 1971, 1981, and 1990, chronicling his hapless protagonist's jittery journey into undistinguished middle age in three melancholy bestsellers: Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest. A concluding novella, "Rabbit Remembered," appeared in the 2001 story collection Licks of Love.

Although autobiographical elements appear in the Rabbit books, Updike's true literary alter ego was not Harry Angstrom but Harry Bech, a famously unproductive Jewish-American writer who starred in his own story cycle. In between -- indeed, far beyond -- his successful series, Updike went on to produce an astonishingly diverse string of novels. In addition, his criticism and short fiction became popular staples of distinguished literary publications.

Good To Know

Updike first became entranced by reading when he was a young boy growing up on an isolated farm in Pennsylvania. Afflicted with psoriasis and a stammer, he escaped his self-consciousness by immersing himself in drawing, writing, and reading.

An accomplished artist, Updike accepted a one-year fellowship to study painting at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts at Oxford University. He decided to attend Harvard University because he was a big fan of the school's humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon.

One of the most respected authors of the 20th century, Updike won every major literary prize in America, including the Guggenheim Fellow, the Rosenthal Award, the National Book Award in Fiction, the O. Henry Prize, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Union League Club Abraham Lincoln Award, the National Arts Club Medal of Honor, and the National Medal of the Arts.

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Hoyer Updike (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 18, 1932
    2. Place of Birth:
      Shillington, Pennsylvania
    1. Date of Death:
      January 27, 2009
    2. Place of Death:
      Beverly Farms, MA

Read an Excerpt

Half Moon, Small Cloud

Caught out in daylight, a rabbit's transparent pallor, the moon is paired with a cloud of equal weight:
the heavenly congruence startles.

For what is the moon, that it haunts us,
this impudent companion immigrated from the system's less fortunate margins,
the realm of dust collected in orbs?

We grow up as children with it, a nursemaid of a bonneted sort, round-faced and kind,
not burning too close like parents, or too far to spare even a glance, like movie stars.

No star but in the zodiac of stars,
a stranger there, too big, it begs for love
(the man in it) and yet is diaphanous,
its thereness as mysterious as ours.

Evening Concert, Sainte-Chapelle

The celebrated windows flamed with light directly pouring north across the Seine;
we rustled into place. Then violins vaunting Vivaldi's strident strength, then Brahms,
seemed to suck with their passionate sweetness,
bit by bit, the vigor from the red,
the blazing blue, so that the listening eye saw suddenly the thick black lines, in shapes of shield and cross and strut and brace, that held the holy glowing fantasy together.
The music surged; the glow became a milk,
a whisper to the eye, a glimmer ebbed until our beating hearts, our violins were cased in thin but solid sheets of lead.

Country Music
February 1999
Oh Monica, you Monica
In your little black beret,
You beguiled our saintly Billy
And led that creep astray.

He'd never seen thong underpants
Or met a Valley girl;
He was used to Southern women,
Like good old Minnie Pearl.

You vamped him with your lingo,
Your notes in purple ink,
And fed him Vox and bagels
Until he couldn't think.

You were our Bill's Delilah
Until Acquittal Day;
You're his-tor-y now, Monica,
In your little black beret.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 6, 2010

    "Endpoint" is a worthwhile read

    Who am I to "review" John Updike's work? What I can say is, these are the viewpoints of a very sensitive man. Like his other works, these are a definite observation that is worth reading. These writings come as his body, but not his mind, is slowing down. Yet they are lively & not morbid or gloomy. I can recognize my Grandfather's habits, or my Dad's way of looking at ordinary things, like his broken computer. I could identify with his remarks about the life that is passing him by - just a little. There was some looking back & some looking ahead, but mostly he's looking around & showing that he's still alive. Maybe that makes it easier to read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    John Updike as Poet

    This last book of John Updike lets the reader go back to Updike's early beginnings.
    We see a great novelist asa brilliant poet. Writer of archetypes, American protestant questions of
    life, sex, and death. Most of all the Updike of Pennsylvania and a tribute to his own
    childhood, his early fiction and to friendship.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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