Self-Consciousness
Updike (John)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Inside Cover Blurb

  1. John Updike's memoirs consist of six chapters in which he writes of his home town, his psoriasis, his stuttering, his discomfort during the Vietnam war, his Updike ancestors, and his religion and sense of self. These essays together give the inner shape of a life, up to the age of fifty-five, of a relatively fortunate American male.
  2. He has attempted, his foreword states, "to treat this life, this massive datum which happens to be mine, as a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world."
  3. In the service of this metaphysical effort, he has been hair-raisingly honest and beautifully eloquent, not to say, in a number of places, self-effacingly funny. He takes the reader beyond self-consciousness1, into sheer wonder at the world and its fabric.
  4. John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. His father was a high-school mathematics teacher and his mother a writer. After graduating from the Shillington public schools in 1950, he attended Harvard College and, on a Knox Fellowship, the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, to which he has contributed short stories, poems, and book reviews. Since 1957, he has lived in Massachusetts. He is the father of four children and the author of thirty-six books, including thirteen novels and five collections of verse. His fiction has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The photograph on the back of this jacket was taken in Czechoslovakia in 1986, at a session of signing Czech and Slovak translations of some of his works.

Foreword (Truncated)
  1. Shortly before the first of these personal essays was composed (but several years after the soft spring night in Shillington that it describes) I was told, perhaps in jest, of someone wanting to write my biography — to take my life, my lode of ore and heap of memories, from me! The idea seemed so repulsive that I was stimulated to put down, always with some natural hesitation and distaste, these elements of an autobiography. They record what seems to me important about my own life, and try to treat this life, this massive datum which happens to be mine, as a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world.
  2. A mode of impersonal egoism was my aim: an attempt to touch honestly upon the central veins, with a scientific dispassion and curiosity. The veins had been tapped, of course — the lode mined — in over thirty years' worth of prose and poetry; and where an especially striking or naked parallel in my other work occurred to me, I have quoted it, as a footnote.
  3. But merciful forgetfulness has no doubt hidden many other echoes from me, as well as eroded the raw material of autobiography into shapes scarcely less imaginary, though less final, than those of fiction.
  4. Were I to make this attempt five or ten years from now, it would be different; the medical history of the second chapter, for instance, changed after this account appeared in The New Yorker in September of 1985, and has accordingly been adjusted. A life-view by the living can only be provisional. Perspectives are altered by the fact of being drawn; description solidifies the past and creates a gravitational body that wasn't there before. A background of dark matter — all that is not said — remains, buzzing.
  5. [Acknowledgements] …

Contents
  1. A Soft Spring Night in Shillington - 3
  2. At War with My Skin - 42
  3. Getting the Words Out - 79
  4. On Not Being a Dove - 112
  5. A Letter to My Grandsons - 164
  6. On Being a Self2 Forever - 212

Notes


In-Page Footnotes ("Updike (John) - Self-Consciousness")

Footnote 8: Footnote 9:
BOOK COMMENT:

Alfred A Knopf; 1st Trade Edition (1 Mar. 1989)



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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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