cover image My Father's Tears and Other Stories

My Father's Tears and Other Stories

John Updike, . . Knopf, $25 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-307-27156-3

Two of the three posthumous Updike books publishing this year deal heavily with late-life laments.

My Father's Tears and Other Stories John Updike . Knopf , $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-27156-3

Updike compresses the strata of a life in his delicately rendered, tremendously moving posthumous collection. In “Free,” the memory of a life-affirming affair buckles against a man's loyalty to his deceased wife: he recognizes that becoming a “well-bred stick” offers more consolation in old age than the sluggish arousal of his sensuality. In “The Accelerating Expansion of the Universe,” the retired protagonist, depressed by what he perceives as the universe's indifference to human affairs, is done in by the accumulated detritus of his life. Many characters are haunted by a sense of isolation, such as the protagonist of “Personal Archaeology,” who roams his Massachusetts estate, searching for traces of previous ownership while sifting through his own petty contribution, or the emotionally stranded absentee landlord of an Alton, Pa., family farm in “The Road Home,” who returns after 50 years and finds himself lost in his hometown. From “Kinderszenen,” which depicts the anxious time of smalltown late 1930s, to “Varieties of Religious Experience,” in which a grandfather watches the twin towers fall, time ushers in brutal changes. With masterly assurance, Updike transforms the familiar into the mysterious. (June)