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Memories of the Ford Administration
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Memories of the Ford Administration

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  399 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Alfred Clayton, the hero of John Updike's fifteenth novel, has received a request from the Northern New England Association of American Historians for his memories and impressions of the Gerald Ford Administration (1974-77). "Alf" obliges with his memories of a turbulent period in his personal history, as well as pages of an unpublished book he was writing at the time, on ...more
Unknown Binding
Published May 26th 1999 by Penguin Books (first published 1992)
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Paul
Oct 23, 2013 Paul rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-novels
This is an odd book. John Updike was something of an expert on the President before Lincoln; James Buchanan. He wrote a play about him and had intended to write a historical novel about him. Instead he shoved most of what he knew into this book. It is ostensibly about Alf Clayton a history lecturer. When the Northern New England Association of American Historians (NNEAAH) ask for memories and recollections of the Ford administration Clayton puts together all his notes about Buchanan, about whom ...more
Chad Bearden
Aug 31, 2008 Chad Bearden rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The premise of "Memories of the Ford Administration", as well as the process of reading it, is bizarre. This is it: A college history professor is asked by a professional historian organization to reflect on the years of the Ford presidency for an upcoming symposium. The professor's response is apparently to write a book which is half John Updike novel, and half pseudo-non-fictional biography of James Buchanan (our 15th president).

The protagonist, Alf Clayton, admits in the closing pages of his
...more
Robert
Jul 19, 2015 Robert rated it liked it
This is an erratic, unsuccessful novel that demonstrates that great writing is not enough to generate great books. As always, Updike displays his astonishing eye for detail--and couples it with an unusually thoughtful approach to American history--but the parts do not add up to a whole despite twenty pages at the end that serve to complete, or partially save, the text surprisingly well.

Here we have one Alf, an historian obsessed with James Buchanan (the only president from Pennsylvania) conflati
...more
Neil Cake
This is quite a book... uh... the first I've ever read by John Updike. I didn't really know anything about him, but I was led here by some combination of having read so many other modern American authors - most recently, John Irving, of course.

So I read some of the various reviews, and I figured this really wouldn't be a very good place to start. It doesn't sound very interesting. And for a while, it isn't. And then every now and then, also for a while, it isn't very interesting again. But for s
...more
Mark
Feb 13, 2013 Mark rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, own-it
I generally like John Updike, but this one was just too dry and too contrived. A professor is writing of his memories of the Ford Administration, a time when he was trying to write a biography of our only bachelor President, James Buchanan. Most of his memories of the Ford administration had to do with the woman he was having an affair with at the time. Unfortunately, neither story captivated my interest. I set it aside so that I could move on to something else, with the intention of going back ...more
Holli
Jan 11, 2008 Holli rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2007
A terrible book that features the "protoganist" cheating on his wife with EVERYONE (including his students and their mothers) and a very dry history of the James Buchanan presidency. Total Disappointment.
Sam
Feb 10, 2009 Sam rated it really liked it
This is very nearly two books for the price of one - though far more schizophrenic than Haruki Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World or Alasdair Gray's Lanark A Life in Four Books.

The first being the memories, particularly those of the Ford administration, of Updike's stand-in, a college professor whose life's work is a biography of James Buchanan. The second being snippets of that biography, which often takes on the pallor of historical or even speculative fiction.

This being
...more
Kelli Ann Wilson
Dec 05, 2012 Kelli Ann Wilson rated it liked it
Egads...where to start? Memories of the Ford Administration is really two novels in one. The premise of the novel is that the protagonist, Alfred, has been charged with writing a piece about his experiences of the Ford administration. What he produces is half memoir and half biography, but it has nothing to do with President Ford. Alfred's sexual escapades, which make up the majority of the memoir aspect, are described in graphic detail, which didn't do much for me as a reader. Where Updike real ...more
Chris Wharton
In the 1990s, a college history professor recounts his mid-1970s married and family life and adultery, interspersed with his working draft of those years of his life work—a biography of James Buchanan (all this in reply to a request from his regional historians association for members’ “memories of the Ford Administration.”) Entertaining at times but slow at others, with a bit of a forced and uneven feeling from the odd structure perhaps. Sometimes very good Updike, when I have always liked him ...more
David
Nov 07, 2011 David rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The joke of the premise is so omnipresent as to come across surprisingly subtly: that is, a New England history professor responds to a local journal's call for impressions of Ford's presidency with 350 pages of sex and neurosis and a failed manuscript of a completely different president's biography that never really come close to useable. Within that framework, Updike paints an interesting portrait of a man who, as free-thinking as he wants to be in his academic life, can't let go of the domina ...more
John
Feb 09, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a second read. I first read this novel back in 1993. John Updike was fascinated by the historical person of President James Buchanan. He researched his life to great detail. And I believe he knew that if he simply wrote a biography of Buchanan--no one would read it. So instead he wrote this novel about a professor of history who is doing research on Buchanan, who is asked to write about the time period of the Ford Administration. He includes pieces of his Buchanan research in hopes that ...more
Ajj
Jan 06, 2011 Ajj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My wife likes Updike and my Dad gave me this book. Last time I tried to read it I got to page 30. Let's give it another go!

So this book is good. I very much enjoyed how much Updike made me hate the narrator and the narrator's voice yet still want to read the book to the end. The narrator might be unlikable and his style hard to read but it is so truly him that you can't argue. There was also a lot of sex.

I really enjoyed how Updike makes the two historical periods mix together and compliment eac
...more
Joy
This is a great book although it did drag a bit at the very end. The writing is funny, the protagonist is so very self-unaware, the descriptions are alluring and the story of president Buchanan is surprisingly interesting. Updike's one-page alternative history (Buchanan marrying his fiance leading to the 1856 and 1860 election of President Stephen Douglas and the dissolution of slavery of without the Civil War) is fascinating.
Mark Knapke
An ambitious project that doesn't quite work. The attempt, however, makes this a very interesting book. Written in an era of his career after his greatest triumphs, this book shows Updike to still have a restless mind-to still be seeking a challenge as an artist. The cake never fully bakes, but it was fun watching him try.
D
Nov 12, 2011 D rated it it was ok
Not nearly as good as the 'rabbit' series. The book alternates between an interesting biography of James Buchanan, the last president before the US civil war, and the mostly sexual adventures of the protagonist during the time of the Ford administration. The former part is moderately interesting, the latter boring.
JimZ
Jan 27, 2016 JimZ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: updike
One of Updike's best novels, as he weaves the portrayal of a fictional history professor's personal life, his "memories" of the years when Ford was president, and his ongoing and rather poignant research project on the life of president James Buchanan. Updike produces a literary triumph with this seemingly tangled web of threads. [Most of the novel is not about Ford or his administration]
Greg
Aug 07, 2007 Greg rated it really liked it
This is a fun read. The overlapping stories are of course fun in the way that Updike leaves them in stark contrast at points and as two sides of the same ribbon at others. His always sardonic take on sex and its impact on human lives is splendid.
Mom
Sep 10, 2007 Mom rated it it was amazing
John Updike's writing style is exemplary. A graduate student researching his dissertation on James Buchanan provides the framework for an insightful comparison of the 19th century of Buchanan and the 1970s, including politics, sexual freedom, and changing cultural mores.
Raelin Randall
May 30, 2016 Raelin Randall rated it it was ok
This book was not for me. I only enjoyed pieces of the story. However, read it for yourself and develop your own opinion.
Angie
Jul 08, 2013 Angie added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I could see what he was doing, but it was just too tedious to keep up for a whole book. Would have been interesting to learn about Buchanan, but the modern folks appealed to me not at all.
Marvin
Aug 14, 2009 Marvin rated it liked it
Not one of Updike's better efforts, but I still enjoyed it. It's especially appropriate for historians, with lots of observations about the limitations of history.
Janet
Jan 28, 2014 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit that I skimmed through some of the longer, political Buchanan parts. But I still love, love, love John Updike.
Dave Feinstein
Dec 06, 2009 Dave Feinstein rated it it was amazing
It's original, give it that. The tale of a professor writing about James Buchanan living and trying to meet chicks in (for me) the endlessly fascinating Ford era.
Rachel
Feb 23, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it
You almost need to be a Buchanan history enthusiast to really enjoy this book - but for those who like the history of the 1850s it's great fun.
Thom Dunn
One of the most fully realized--and certainly the funniest--of Updike's books, starting with the title.
Ivan
Ivan rated it liked it
Dec 25, 2012
Kerki Marc
Kerki Marc rated it it was amazing
Sep 29, 2010
Jeffreyp
Jeffreyp rated it really liked it
Jun 24, 2012
Dr_I_Dont_Know
Dr_I_Dont_Know rated it really liked it
Oct 30, 2012
Heather
Heather rated it liked it
Dec 15, 2007
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John Hoyer Updike 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 his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, havin ...more
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“Though old himself, he disliked old men.” 3 likes
“Still, my fascination with Buchanan did not abate, nor was I able, as the Seventies set in, to move the novel forward through the constant pastiche and basic fakery of any fiction not fed by the springs of memory -- what Henry James calls (in a letter to Sarah Orne Jewett) the "fatal cheapness [and] mere escamotage" of the "'historic' novel.” 2 likes
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