My Father's Tears and other stories

by John Updike

Hardcover, 2009





New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.


John Updike's first collection of new short fiction since the year 2000, My Father's Tears finds the author in a valedictory mood as he mingles narratives of his native Pennsylvania with stories of New England suburbia and of foreign travel.

Media reviews

There's plenty here for longtime fans. Olinger, the post-industrial Pennsylvania town that appears in many of his books, is again prominent, and Updike's trademark wandering sentences, which, like Wordsworth's poetry, seem to go in two directions at once, are everywhere. But My Father's Tears also has a quality, sometimes found in final books, of being filled with light and wonderment. It's not only a fitting final book, but a joyous one.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bruchu
Updike Will be Missed

From American novelist and literary critic John Updike, this latest book of short stories, published posthumously, was a joy to read. Like all collections of short stories, some are better than others, but overall I think they reflect well on Updike and his legacy as one of America's most prolific writers.

Unfortunately, I did not find the title short story "My Father's Tears" all that enthralling. But probably my favorite story in the book is "Varieties of Religious Experience". Updike recreates the events surrounding September 11, in a fictional non-fiction sort of way. I was entirely engrossed into the narrative but at the same time it was frighteningly eerie because of course we all know the outcome and the circumstances surrounding the hijackers, and those passengers on United flight 11.

When reading Updike, I think what most readers will immediately notice (at least I did) was his obsession with eroticism -- to such an extent that he challenges our preconceived notions of what is socially acceptable. But fundamentally, Updike explores the complexities of Freudian logic like the oedipus complex to great effect. Certainly, Updike is not for everyone, but the many machinations of the sexual mind are truly fascinating.

I am sure there will be more of Updike's previously unpublished works that will get bundled together in the future. It's just good to read Updike again and "My Father's Tears" will compliment any good Updike collection.
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LibraryThing member debs4jc
The stories seemed repetitive--older men looking back on their life and not finding much meaning or hope in their experiences.
LibraryThing member Sandra305
Updike is the ultimate storyteller and weaves a delicate and bittersweet thread through all these stories that will stay with you long after you close the book.
LibraryThing member AshRyan
Like much of Updike's work, most of these stories are about middle-aged New Englanders cheating on their spouses. There are also stories on the not unfamiliar subjects of growing up in the mid-west, and reflecting on one's life during old age. Several of these stories are also about travel abroad, which serves as the setting for one of the aforementioned subjects.

Perhaps the most interesting story in this collection is "Varieties of Religious Experience", about the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. In it, he follows the experiences of a variety of characters impacted by the attack, from the terrorists themselves to people working in the World Trade Center towers to passengers on Flight 93. It is a powerful and thoughtful piece of writing, though Updike nearly ruins it at the end by expressing the view that the Islamists were right to view the WTC towers as an arrogant affront and it would be un-American to rebuild them...nothing up to that point in the story justifies such a conclusion (quite the reverse, in fact) and it is simply dropped in out of nowhere.

Still, on the whole this is one of Updike's better collections of stories that I've read so far.
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LibraryThing member cdeuker
There are some amazing stories in the collection. The first, about a family on vacation in Morocco, being one of them. More retrospective than most Updike, and maybe more melancholy. I think I would have like the entire collection more had I stopped half way through and then picked up the second half six months later. Many of the stories seemed like sketches for novels. Updike writes beautifully--amazing descriptive passages and similes throughout, not forced, just a man with a very keen eye.… (more)
LibraryThing member libraryclerk
I do not read short stories much but have not read any of John Updike's books and thought this might be a good sampler of his stuff. I still don't know if I'll read any of his books. Maybe in the future. Of these short stories some were better than others but nothing that really jumped out at me.
LibraryThing member michaelbartley
this is wonderful collection of short stories. the underlying theme is old men looking back at their life. each story at least to me has a sad mood. the characters struggle to find some meaning to come to grips with life
LibraryThing member TimBazzett
I began reading Updike in 1968 when I picked up Rabbit, Run in a college bookstore. I remained a devoted fan for the next 20 years or so, then read only a few of his books and magazine articles after that. But in spite of having lost track of his last 20 years of writing I was deeply saddened to learn of his death in January of 2009. That announcement moved me to buy MY FATHER'S TEARS, published posthumously later that year. Perhaps it was the knowledge that John Updike was gone and this would be his last book, but I was myself moved to tears more than once as I read these stories this week. The majority of them are ruminations on childhood and the people and places that shape you. Here the place is Olinger (in reality, Shillington, PA) and the people are the boy's parents and grandparents. Updike's father was a high school teacher, who was immortalized in his award-winning novel, The Centaur. Reading these stories makes me want to read that book again; and I will try to.

One notable departure from the overriding theme of childhood is the story, "Varieties of Religious Experience," Updike's take on the 9/11 disaster, in which he muses once again on the existence (or not) of an indifferent God. "... Dan marveled at the human animal: like dogs, we creep back to lick the hand of a God Who, if He exists, has just given us a vicious kick. The harder He kicks, the more fervently we cringe and creep forward to lick his Hand."

This search for a God and life's meaning is also represented in the story, "The Apparition," where the protagonist reflects on Hinduism, where "in the last stage of life, [man] is permitted to leave his family and business and become a seeker after God and life's ultimate meaning."

But if there was a single line in this book which moved me the most deeply it came in "The Full Glass," which I recognized as a piece I had read previously in The New Yorker. In it the narrator reflects on his old man's routines and various infirmities, his wife's comments that he sleeps more now. And on the last page of the last story in what would be the author's last book, this narrator notes, "... many mornings, now that I'm retired and nearly eighty, I fall back asleep for another hour. The world is being tended to, I can let go of it, it doesn't need me."

Oh, but it did, John. It still does. But sleep now. You've earned it; and through your books you will always be with us.
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