A Month of Sundays

( 4 )

Overview

In this antic riff on Hawthorne?s Scarlet Letter, the Reverend Tom Marshfield, a latter-day Arthur Dimmesdale, is sent west from his Midwestern parish in sexual disgrace. At a desert retreat dedicated to rest, recreation, and spiritual renewal, this fortyish serial fornicator is required to keep a journal whose thirty-one weekly entries constitute the book you now hold in your hand. In his wonderfully overwrought style he lays bare his soul and his past?his marriage to the daughter of his ethics professor, his ...
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A Month of Sundays: A Novel

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Overview

In this antic riff on Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, the Reverend Tom Marshfield, a latter-day Arthur Dimmesdale, is sent west from his Midwestern parish in sexual disgrace. At a desert retreat dedicated to rest, recreation, and spiritual renewal, this fortyish serial fornicator is required to keep a journal whose thirty-one weekly entries constitute the book you now hold in your hand. In his wonderfully overwrought style he lays bare his soul and his past—his marriage to the daughter of his ethics professor, his affair with his organist, his antipathetic conversations with his senile father and his bisexual curate, his golf scores, his poker hands, his Biblical exegeses, and his smoldering desire for the directress of the retreat, the impregnable Ms. Prynne. A testament for our times.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“John Updike may be America’s finest novelist and [A Month of Sundays] is quintessential Updike.”—The Washington Post
 
“Updike is playful, witty, ironic, ever-fresh, ever-provocative, and ever so ever erotic. . . . A Month of Sundays is both poignant and very funny. . . . One of America’s most original, most subtle, and most engaging writers.”—The Boston Globe
 
“The funniest book that anyone is likely to read in, well, a month of Sundays . . . an excellent novel . . . Updike is dazzling in his wordplay.”—The Cleveland Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780449912201
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/1996
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 384,216
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. 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. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike 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

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    John Updike, A Month of Sundays

    Reverend Tom Marshfield has gone astray. Far astray. Or he has discovered his true self. Either way, his life has become inextricably bound to his barely restrainable sexual desires. Limited not be his own nearly nonexistent faith, but instead by the piety of the woman he pursues. I can't believe I am actually using such a word to describe a novel, but John Updike's A Month of Sundays is quite juicy. By which I am not referring to banal descriptions of carnality. What is most enticing about this tale is the exploration of a very carnal man's journey between the faith of others and his own desires. Reminiscent of Philip Roth, I thought, from whose works I derive great, sometimes guilty, pleasures.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Month of Sundays

    Reverend Tom Marshfield has gone astray. Far astray. Or he has discovered his true self. Either way, his life has become inextricably bound to his barely restrainable sexual desires. Limited not be his own nearly nonexistent faith, but instead by the piety of the woman he pursues. I can't believe I am actually using such a word to describe a novel, but John Updike's A Month of Sundays is quite juicy. By which I am not referring to banal descriptions of carnality. What is most enticing about this tale is the exploration of a very carnal man's journey between the faith of others and his own desires. Reminiscent of Philip Roth, I thought, from whose works I derive great, sometimes guilty, pleasures.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Good reading on a 1-week vacation

    This book is hilarious in the best way, with moments of pathos as well as the sublime. A first person account. Thoroughly enjoyed the "pastor at rehab" setting, with many laugh out loud passages together with others that make one pause to ponder the human condition. The central character is trying hard to be honest, with himself and the God he understands. Recommended.

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

    Posted July 2, 2002

    Tom Marshfield Goes West

    You will want to read John Updike's A Month of Sundays for reasons that will occur to you beginning on page one. It was written just as feminism was getting a toe-hold on America's north face and from that perspective, there is much to recommend it. It is a snapshot of the early seventies and the implosion of social and religious standards while the country's sexuality exploded in Thomas Marshfield's face. Tom Marshfield is a 'suburban Christian minister,' denomination and suburb unlisted. Tom is a minister's son and is married to Jane Chillingworth, his college professor's daughter. As he steps into his fifth decade at age 41, Tom and his Bach-loving organist begin their mutual seduction (pay no attention to the blurbs, this is as much Alicia Crick's idea as it is Tom's), but he is unable to overcome the inertia of a vaguely unsatisfying marriage and Alicia begins an affair with Tom's curate, Ned Bork. The story is presented in a series of journal entries, one for each day of Tom's desert exile while he contemplates the meaning of . . ., well, you need to set aside an afternoon and read this too real comedy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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