John Updike is recognized as a giant of the writing world, his fiction having covered the bestseller and positive review lists for decades,
“The Maples Stories” is a collection of 18 works that he penned over five decades.
They are the stories of a marriage between Richard and Joan Maple. They are the stories of his own married life to the point that some have said it might be hard to call the stories fiction.
The works are poignant. They are not only close to the facts of so many marriages, they are the facts. Some of those realities are hard to read, they hit too deep.
Updike sought to partially define these stories in his foreword: “A history in many ways happy, of growing children and a million mundane moments shared. That a marriage ends is less than ideal; but all things end under heaven, and if temporality is held to be invalidating, then nothing real succeeds.”
So the end does not define the marriage, the millions of moments do. Those moments are what Updike brings to life in each of these stories.
Since they are in sequence, we see the lives of the Maples as it happened-all those mundane moments that perhaps were not so mundane after all.
Updike, like the moments, writes in a reality we easily understand and feel. The exceptional growth of his writing abilities is seen since the sequence of stories is not only true for the marriage years, but for his writing years as well.
“The Sometime Sportsman Greets the Spring”
When winter’s glaze is lifted from the greens,
And cups are freshly cut, and birdies sing,
Triumphantly the stifled golfer preens
In cleats and slacks once more, and checks his swing.
This year, he vows, his head will steady be,
His weight-shift smooth, his grip and stance ideal;
And so they are, until upon the tee
Befall the old contortions of the real.
So, too, the tennis-player, torpid from
Hibernal months of television sports,
Perfects his serve and feels his knees become
Sheer muscle in their unaccustomed shorts.
Right arm relaxed, the left controls the toss,
Which shall be high, so that the racket face
Shall at a certain angle sweep across
The floated sphere with gutty strings--an ace!
The mind’s eye sees it all until upon
The courts of life the faulty way we played
In other summers rolls back with the sun.
Hope springs eternally, but spring hopes fade.”
― John Updike, Collected Poems, 1953-1993
Gary Thorne is the play-by-play voice of the Orioles on MASN, and the 2017 season is his 11th with the club and 32nd covering Major League Baseball. His blog will appear regularly throughout the season. The Orioles and Sarasota County have partnered on the Big League Reader Program, which rewarded kids who read three books in February with tickets to a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium in March.
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