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The Library of America's five-volume edition of Updike's novels culminates with three masterful late works: a brilliant exploration of the American Century; a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet; and a bittersweet coda to the Rabbit series
The capstone volume of the Library of America edition of John Updike’s novels contains some of the master stylist and social observer’s most ambitious works.
In the Beauty of the Lilies (1996) opens in 1910, when Clarence Wilmot, a Presbyterian minister in Paterson, NJ, experiences a devastating loss of faith. This moment of crisis sets in motion an eighty-year, multigenerational saga whose subject is nothing less than the American Century and modernity itself, seen through the fluctuating fortunes of a single representative family.
In Gertrude and Claudius, Updike boldly imagines the long backstory to the world’s most famous play, prompting readers to revisit and perhaps revise their judgments about Hamlet’s notorious uncle and mother. Drawing on the twelfth- and fifteenth century sources for Hamlet, but also inventing a new history for Claudius in his far-flung travels across medieval Europe, Updike creates a vivid and surprising origin story for the fabled rottenness in Shakespeare’s Denmark.
The novella Rabbit Remembered (2000) is a poignant final curtain call for one of the greatest characters in twentieth-century American literature. Once again the setting is Brewer, Pennsylvania, but now Harry Angstrom’s family are figuring out their lives in his absence. Harry’s ghost is insistently present, and the stories shared by his children suggest that the reckoning with those closest to us, for better and for worse, never really ends.
None of these books have ever been published in an annotated edition. This deluxe editions includes six rare pieces by Updike reflecting on the novels collected here.
About 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. He was the author of more than sixty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle, and the Howells Medal, among other honors. He died in 2009.
Christopher Carduff is the Books Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He is editor of John Updike’s posthumous collections Higher Gossip (essays & criticism), Always Looking (writings on art), Selected Poems, and Collected Stories, and is also the editor of the Library of America editions of William Maxwell and John Updike.