To Carter Billings, the hero of John Updike's title story, all of England has the glow of an afterlife: "A miraculous lacquer lay upon everything, beading each roadside twig, each reed of thatch in the cottage roofs, each tiny daisy trembling in the grass". All twenty-two of the stories in this collection - John Updike's eleventh, and his first in seven years - in various ways partake of this glow, as life beyond middle age is explored and found to have its own particular wonders, from omniscient golf caddies to prescient sexual rumors, from the deaths of mothers and brothers-in-law to the births of grandchildren. As death approaches, life takes on, for some of these aging heroes, a translucence, a magical fragility; vivid memory and casual misperception lend the mundane an antic texture, and the backward view, lengthening, acquires a certain grandeur. Travel, whether to England or Ireland, Italy or the isles of Greece, heightens perceptions and tensions. As is usual in Mr. Updike's fiction, spouses quarrel, lovers part, children are brave, and houses with their decor have the presence of personalities. His is a world where innocence stubbornly persists, and fresh beginnings almost outnumber losses.
About the Author
John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. 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, and since 1957 has lived in Massachusetts. He is the author of fifty-odd previous books, including twenty novels and numerous collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His fiction has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal.