Friday, April 03, 2009

Endpoint by John Updike

I had to drop everything and read John Updike’s last book. First, I saw the dedication – “For Martha, who asked for one last book: here it is, with all my love.” Then it struck me: he really was gone, no more novels or stories, unless some nearly finished manuscript even now wends its way through editors, typesetters, printers, book sellers, eventually to me. One can only hope.

He died this past January. Every year I remembered -- too late – that I wanted to send him a birthday note on March 18th. How much I now regret those lapses.

He wrote the first group of poems each year on his birthday beginning in 2002. Then a few as he went to the hospital for tests, treatments -- never losing his keen sense of observation and that subtle humor I love so much.

Usually, when I review a book of poetry, I include a sample, but not this time. I need to keep these magnificent words, images, and phrases to myself. Believe me, these poems pack emotion in every line. Memories thread their way from one to the other. Quiet references to friends, books, family, and events color the fabric of his last years, months, and days.

Buy this book. Spend an afternoon with Updike at his bedside, near his easy chair. You will be converted to a lover of his talent as the premier wordsmith of 20th century American letters. Marvel at the list of his works – novels, poems, short stories, a play, a memoir, essays – all too wonderful to put down at the last page, but each new book opens up a whole new world.

A perfect little book! Beautiful in type, in words, in images, and even in its dust jacket with John half-turning back to the photographer -- a leaf-shaded country lane and all the world before him. My highest rating – 10 stars.

--Chiron, 4/3/09

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