My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The short stories in this volume capture Updike doing precisely what he did best: latching onto the very nuances of the American male in particular (while not all of the tales in this volume are told from the male perspective) and speaking from their point of view in a way that makes you empathetic with them when, when told from any other angle you would want to throttle them.
It is for this reason that Updike was a rare writer and a great loss, for he could pinpoint these nuances and then speak for and from them, giving them voice and breadth like no one else.
In “Blue Light”, for example, the protagonist is someone I would on the surface have a hard time feeling much of anything for. An aging man seeking to improve his appearance as he lives out his comfortable life in the northeast, we have nothing in common. He tells of a philandering past through flashback, and it is clear he was not particularly good to any of his three wives. Yet there is something of him that is revealed that is sensitive and left exposed that we do share; not the same vulnerabilities or regrets, certainly, but vulnerabilities and regrets all the same.
The whole volume was a good read, but I particularly enjoyed “Delicate Wives,” “Blue Light,” and “Personal Archaeology.”