A collection of the eloquent, insightful, and beautifully written prose works that Updike was compiling when he died in January 2009, this book opens with a self-portrait of the writer in winter--a Prospero who, though he fears his most dazzling performances are behind him, reveals himself in every sentence to be in deep conversation with the sources of his magic.
Every LibraryThinger should read his "Poetics of Bookreviewing" (pp. 424-425), which includes this, keeping in mind that Updike was also a prolific novelist:
"Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending. (How astounded and indignant was I, when innocent, to find reviewers blabbing, and with the sublime inaccuracy of drunken lords reporting on a peasants' revolt, all the turns of my suspenseful and surpriseful narrative! Most ironically, the only readers who approach a book as the author intends, unpolluted by pre-knowledge of the plot, are the detested reviewers themselves. And then, years later, the blessed fool who picks up the volume at random from a library shelf.)"
As editor of this compilation Christopher Carduff states in the foreword (he is referring to the efforts he put forward in putting this collection together posthumously):
"Fed by my editorial additions, the starter dough doubled and then almost overflowed the pan -- but this wouldn't be an Updike collection if it didn't offer a sense of yeasty, ever-rising abundance, of all-this-and-then-some, of almost-too-much-ness." (p. xviii)
Indeed, as with the other essay/criticism collections by Updike I own ("Hugging the Shore" and "Due Considerations"), this provided me many, many nights of bedside readings. I'm sorry it's Updike's last, but I still have to acquire his art criticism ("Just Looking", etc.) and other essay compilations, and that is something I can look forward to. After all, I find this type of work to be perfect bedtime reading -- in general, I prefer to leave the novels and non-fiction such as histories for daytime.