Memories of the Ford Administration
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Memories of the Ford Administration

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  327 ratings  ·  24 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 "Alf" obliges with his memories of a turbulent period in his personal history, as well as pages of an unpublished book he was writing at the time, on...more
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Published May 26th 1999 by Penguin Books (first published 1992)
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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
Robin Mookerjee

Updike is (was) so good that many readers feel it's fair to find fault with him. For instance, why write a book about the Ford Administration that isn't really about the Ford Administration or Gerald Ford? In fact, a large portion of the book is devoted to James Buchanan. Maybe the old New Yorker stalwart was running out of ideas.

Far from it. A fan, like so many readers, of the Rabbit books (by no means easy reading and yet mesmerizing to a large public traumatized by books with titles like The...more
Chad Bearden
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
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 Wilson
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
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
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
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
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
I have to admit that I skimmed through some of the longer, political Buchanan parts. But I still love, love, love John Updike.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dave Feinstein
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.
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.
What was Updike thinking when he wrote this? He wasn't, I think!
Sarah Funke
Started it three times this summer. Couldn't do it.
started this, was never able to get through it.
Cowboy Caleb
Pretentious crap from John 'I write crap' Updike.
David added it
Aug 08, 2014
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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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“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.” 1 likes
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