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Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  995 ratings  ·  62 reviews
"Some of the most beautiful writing in contemporary American literature is between the covers of this book . . ." BOSTON HERALD

The triumphant collection of short stories by America's most acclaimed novelist.

From the Paperback edition.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 27th 1996 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1962)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Outsiders by S.E. HintonOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken KeseyCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald DahlA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Best Books of the Decade: 1960's
403rd out of 642 books — 871 voters
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95th out of 406 books — 68 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,559)
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Paul Gleason
Updike's prose is astonishing - it elevates the mundane into the spiritual, with an earnestness that defies Nabokov and with the precision of a painter. It's no wonder that JU was an art student; his stories remind one of paintings.

The collection is at its best when JU writes in an autobiographical mode. I sense the influence of Proust (one of his favorite writers) in his attempt to regain lost time. "Flight," "Pigeon Feathers," "The Blessed Man of Boston, My Grandmother's Thimble, and Fanning I
Wordy. Scattered. Filled with exaggerated descriptions.

So often the overdone descriptions got in the way of the actual plot and characters. There were several spots where I didn't understand what was actually going on beneath all the words strung together. The last two short stories in this collection consisted of what seemed to be random subjects strung together for no apparent reason.

It was a bit disappointing, considering the cover claims Updike is "the most talented writer of his age," and t
Gwen Southgate
Updike's recent death sent me back to the first book of his that I ever read - and loved on the spot. I was new to the US at that time, and Updike opened up a totally unfamiliar world - rural Pennsylvania. I had tended to think of the US, rather fearfully, in terms of its big cities but Updike, with his eye for detail and uncanny use of language, calmed my fears and showed me a world of ordinary, but complex and interesting people, wrestling with the same demons that we humans, everywhere, wrest ...more
Greg of A2
It's said about writing that "novels pay the bills." I'm so glad that Updike could afford to write short fiction because he was simply a master at it. Many of his short stories found their way into "Best of" collections and college texts because they deserve it. For instance, the lead story in this collection focuses on a young boy who has one of those maturation moments when he realizes that life is more profound and precious than he ever imagined. And it's found in a pigeon's feathers.

Also, t
The one book I keep going back to. I believe it is my all time favorite, and will be for years to come. A beautiful collection of short stories--which is also why I think it will always be my favorite since there are stories for different periods of life. It's similar to my fondness for Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. A must read.

Review written on Nov 11, 2013
This short collection of stories displays a realistic view of small town life that, presumably, Updike himself experienced. The title story, Pigeon Feathers, is especially moving in its portrayal of a young boy's crisis of faith. The experience of the reality of death has more import than the questions and answers obtained in the local sunday school.
James F
Updike's second collection of stories, from 1962. Very similar in feel to the first collection; perhaps a little more uneven. Several of the stories in this book have the same characters: Jack, Clare, and their children; David Kern, Joanne, and their families. (No characters appear in other stories than their own, though, so it isn't really a novel in stories.) The David Kern stories have a strong religious theme, doubt and angst which I found hard to relate to. Again, the characters are very tr ...more
FIRST LINE REVIEW: "Coming back from Boston, Jack drove, his baby son slept in a Carry-Cot on the front seat beside him, and in the back seat Claire sang to their girl, Jo, age two." Updike is home. Comfortable at times, filled with memory-inducing images, often uncomfortably probing our humanity. I like him and I don't. But mostly I do. And mostly I'm just plain envious that he said it all before I could. But then again, I probably couldn't do what he does (when he is cooking on all four cylind ...more
Back in early April at a talk about Shakespeare’s timeless works, my friend shoved a copy of John Updike’s short story collection Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories into my hands. I said nothing, then, and he merely mumbled that he’d brought this book for me. After the event ended, I asked him, again, why he had given me the book, to which he replied he wanted me to read it. Oh, okay, I answered and thanked him, then put the book in the paper bag I’d had gotten with this another book I had purcha ...more
Rick Patterson
Some of these are gems and some are--well, not. "A & P" has been anthologized so much that there's no point in adding another comment, but I was really pleasantly surprised by Updike's final two pieces in this collection: they are more collages than short stories, philosophically or symbolically connected musings that waft from observation to observation. The titles indicate what I mean: "The Blessed Man of Boston, My Grandmother's Thimble, and Fanning Island" and "Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, ...more
Colin N.
There are some great stories in this collection. Updike writes adeptly about marriage and the unspoken undercurrents of frustration and resentment that can exist ("Walter Briggs," Should Wizard Hit Mommy," "Wife-wooing"). The best stories, however, in this collection, are those that focus on adolescence. "Pigeon Feathers" addresses a child's struggle with mortality. "Still Life" describes a college student's attempts to get the attention of a girl. "A Sense of Shelter" focuses on a high school g ...more
I decided to read this anthology because I recently heard the sportswriter Frank Fitzpatrick speak about his passion for Updike, and it spurred me to pick up "Pigeon Feathers." The last Updike I read was the first book of his seminal "Rabbit" series, which has frequently been scorned because of its misogynistic content.

"Pigeon Feathers" focuses on Updike's childhood in rural Pennsylvania (Updike himself grew up in the Scranton area). The images in his stories are so lyrical and somewhat etherea
In this fine collection of stories, I especially liked "A & P". By using “walks” with its “s” in the first sentence – “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits.” – Updike immediately characterizes his first person narrator as young or marginally educated or of working class background. In fact, the narrator is a nineteen-year-old cashier in a small New England grocery store. The story is short, a gem-like vignette, and Updike has the tone, the psychology, and the speech of his ...more
Keith Michael
boy with stutter suffers from unrequited love. man with dilated eyes attempts to seduce a woman in an optometrist's office. couple in a disintegrating marriage struggle to remember an old friend's name on a long car ride home. earnest but frightened boy learns something about death when he is forced to shoot pigeons who have roosted in the family barn. a son learns to respect his father after an altercation with a bad driver.

this collection is full of touching, seemingly commonplace incidences
This is the first and only thing I've read by John Updike, and in all honesty, I would not have been able to tell you any fact about him before I read the little wee author blurb at the back of the book. I mean, obviously, I'd heard of him, but I had nothing past the name recognition. So, anyway, Chris got this from the library, and I was restless and couldn't settle into my other two books, so I picked his up to see if I liked his writing style. And I did! I do! After I read the first story, I ...more
Mariah Ben abraham
Loved the story 'Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, A Dying Cat, A traded Car'.

Fed up with reading the book, I was about to return it unread. Fatefully, a dull evening forced me to reopen the book & I ended up reading this one. The story made me love Updike in spite of all his other stories in the collection (some of which I did not quite understand).

In contrast to the solemn tone used in the story, I felt rather happy (with myself) after finishing it.

The protagonist of this story, is never ashame
Updike's short stories are such a pleasure to read, because you get to know his style and subject matter if you don't want to pick up a whole novel. These all deal with middle-class American culture and its inhabitants. Trying to cope with religious doubts, unhappiness, the burden of responsibility, life and family--it takes all these topics and shines a light on them. I love what Updike goes in these stories.
Amazing writing...true literary artist with a command of the English language. I found myself rereading sentences just out of appreciation. Also, Updike does a great job capturing the little moments of life and making them feel significant and big.
Nick H
As a rule of thumb, probably because it is the book of short stories that has impressed me the most, I compare all others to Nine Stories by J.D. Sallinger. Pigeon Feathers is a worthy adversary. I believe the writing is better in Pigeon Feathers, as Updike proves that he has a knack for creating a scene in a very short piece. However, Nine Stories does flow a little better than Pigeon Feathers. That being said, I am glad that I read this book. This is my introduction to Updike's work (other tha ...more
Dennis Henn
The three star rating should not be construed as a criticism of Updike's writing. I don't like short stories. Just as I begin to identify with one story line and its characters, I am whooshed off to another leaving me with a detached feeling. Also, Updike's stories lay heavy with melancholy and loss--A love he can't have, a soulless car ride, a faith that may be lost, a death that smells uncomfortably close. My final problem was the sense of not getting the ending line. Maybe I needed to read th ...more
Tom McDade
Enjoyed "Persistence of Desire," "Still Life" and A&P most.
I liked this a lot better than the Witches of Eastwick, though none of the stories really stuck out much to me. Here is my favorite quote of the book:

O Lord, bless these poor paragraphs, that would do in their vile ignorance Your work of resurrection.

I may have enjoyed it more if I weren't on a train of people bumping into me or if I wasn't tired as all hell and trying to stay awake while droning on from page to page, paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, word to word... only 6 more wor
Contains my all-time favorite short story, or at least one of them, "The Doctor's Wife." This anthology holds some of the most beautiful and well-written works of the 20th century. For readers of short stories, this book is a must. While I myself am actually not the biggest supporter of Updike, especially his often conceited and ridiculously rococo filled novels, I acknowledge the literary value of the man's writing.
Aug 14, 2010 Carole is currently reading it
I have just read the first 2 stories, being very careful not to leave any evidence of reading in the borrowed book. I greatly enjoyed them. I have just finished the Hemingway Nick Adams' Stories & both authors use terse sentences to express so much more than the words do on face value. This style is more akin to poetry than prose & I really appreciate it. Looking forward to reading more stories.
Adam Spektor
Updike writes with an incredible poetic language and a vast attention to his characters and his emotions. Some stories work better than others, but taken as a whole, "Pigeon Feathers" is a beautiful book, and is quite cohesive thanks to recurring characters, places, and even phrases (bits about cells replacing themselves every seven years, "O Lord, bless these poor paragraphs...").
Each story felt like I was being whisked away into another mind, in another time and I was left feeling all these foreign emotions that the characters are feeling or that I perceived them as feeling. It was hard to snap back into reality without bringing with me these strangers thoughts and perceptions. Beautifully written, a book I could easily read over and over and over again.
Rosalind Reisner
Right after my high school graduation, as my parents and I were walking away from the movie theater where the graduation was held, we passed a bookstore. My father wanted to buy me a book right there and then as a graduation present. This is what I picked, having just read Updike's Poorhouse Fair. Great stories, eye-opening for a teenager.
I really liked the way he writes - his choice of words, his discriptions - but I didn't necessarily love what he writes about, the way the characters and the stories progress. It did make me want to read more of his work though, so that's a bonus.

I will also say that "Pigeon Feathers" was my least favorite story in the book...
Updike proves he was one of the best American writers. He may not have the most emotional characters (as say, a Tobias Wolff character) but Updike's short stories still reveal his deepest ideas about life by being so damn well-crafted. I wish I had a better copy, since mine is old and beat up.
Aug 16, 2009 Paria rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: short story lovers
Shelves: favorites
This collection contains my favorite short story in the world, which is called "Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, A Dying Cat, A Traded Car." It's moving and lyrical, and makes me feel nostalgic, even though my childhood had nothing in common with John Updike's. He's just such an amazing writer.

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John Hoyer Updike (born March 18, 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania) was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for hi ...more
More about John Updike...
Rabbit, Run (Rabbit Angstrom, #1) Rabbit at Rest (Rabbit Angstrom, #4) Rabbit Is Rich (Rabbit Angstrom, #3) Rabbit Redux (Rabbit Angstrom, #2) The Witches of Eastwick (Eastwick, #1)

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