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My Father's Tears and Other Stories

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,333 ratings  ·  207 reviews
John Updike’s first collection of new short fiction since the year 2000, My Father’s Tears finds the author in a valedictory mood as he mingles narratives of his native Pennsylvania with stories of New England suburbia and of foreign travel.

“Personal Archaeology” considers life as a sequence of half-buried layers, and “The Full Glass” distills a lifetime’s happiness into o
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2009)
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Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
goddammit i’m getting old. i still behave like a hyperactive mentally-disabled twenty-three year old, but at thirty-five i already have ‘old fuck syndrome’ -- by which i mean that i loathe my generation all out of proportion. if i read another one of these cutesy assholes writing about the pains it takes to make the perfect mixed CD, i’m gonna cut my legs off with a steak knife. shitty thing is that in thirty years i’m gonna be crapping all over the younger generation and explaining how superior ...more
Red Fields
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
I read this for a book group. It's not a book I would've chosen on my own. I thought it got off to a good start with the first story but subsequent stories seemed to be too much of the same settings and themes over and over. Only-boy children, raised during/after the Depression, by parents and grandparents, infidelity in the 1960s, sometimes divorce, distance from their children. It was kind of boring although the guy is great at descriptive writing. You can picture everything but after a while ...more
May 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is by far the weakest of the Updike books I have read. The themes are familiar: memories of youth, aging lust, infidelity, late second marriages, guilt over the collapse of the first long marriage that begat children, death and insignificance. Updike seemed to be eternally atoning for the breakup of his first marriage as he neared the end of his days, as evinced in this posthumously published collection.

Except for the 9/11 piece “Varieties of Religious Experience,” which is narrated from th
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I have rarely read short stories that made me so reflective. I would read one, savor it for days, and then move on.
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Proustian Reflections on American Life

Updike, John (2009). My Father’s Tears and Other Stories. New York: Random/Ballantine.

Eighteen previously published stories of fifteen to twenty pages make up this posthumous collection. Each one is a gem – not a bad one among them, and that is all the more remarkable because they are superficially about the most mundane aspects of everyday life in America in the twentieth century. Characters go to the store or a dinner party, a class reunion, or have a fami
Harold Griffin
Oct 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Lamenting the prospect of no more Updike, I was excited when I inadvertently discovered this collection of short stories. I thoroughly enjoyed, but cannot say that I loved the volume, which was filled with characteristic insights into the human condition, but without any real knockout tales, just literate, intelligent vintage-Updike musings. The last story, "The Full Glass," ends -- in light of Updike's demise -- with a "toast to the visible world," the toaster's "impending disappearance from it ...more
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have not read Updike before but this collection seems a rather transparent recollection of his own (short) stories. Here is a reminiscence of travel, of how ambivalent families and places can make one feels, of loves come and go, of id and ego in battles, of how memories can be grand and insignificant all the same. Here and there, as it is unavoidable of a recollection, you sniff a what if. And how comforting for the soul that the mind can offer such an alternative.
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
List of John Updike short stories contained in this book:

Christopher Roth
Most of these I must have read in The New Yorker originally, but the only one I recalled is "The Guardians," which still stands out as pretty much the best—absolutely mind-blowing. "The Apparition," which takes place among American tourists in India, is also superb, and the last line is like a punch in the stomach. Both, like most of these stories, deal with the connection between sex and death in the male brain/mind/Weltanschauung, which is also as I take it the underlying theme of all Updike's ...more
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love Updike, so it was sad reading his last book of short stories. These seem so personal that they must be at least half autobiographical. Many take places in Pennsylvania, where he was born, and featured characters in the last part of their lives. Updike stories always show off his great vocabulary, concise and vivid descriptions, and lusty characters. He was interested in sex and illicit relationships all of his life and these stories are no exception. I think his main point was that people ...more
Heather Alderman
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
I picked this up to complete a book challenge, but was also really looking forward to reading these short stories by Updike. I enjoyed the first story, but then each of the subsequent stories felt like a similar version of the first. All the stories had a semi-autobiographical feel to them but with different names and very slightly different characters.
Books I'm Not Reading
Oct 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
The one star goes to ONE particular story that was good. The rest ... ugh.
Regina Mclaughlin
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
As intimate and confessional an assortment of narrators as Updike ever conjured up. Some not likeable, others not trustworthy. AS can be expected, these tales are redolent of familiar sound, taste, see, smell and touch. Updike seizes hold of our nerve endings and tantalizes the brain to interpret this neurologic input: what to make of seeing a garment worn askew, what the feel of a barefoot gambol on grass tells of the past, how a whiff of fragrance can become freighted with long-forgotten assoc ...more
Apr 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2010
This book was not written for me. (I am of the wrong generation, even my parents are of the wrong generation, and I am not a middle class male from rural Pennsylvania.) However, the writing is hypnotic. As I read the stories, I felt as if I were in a gentle whirlpool, on language. The stories have so many overlaps that it feels like continuations from one to the other. It is is if you gently snag one story into the other and draw a new plot line.

At the beginning I did not like this book. I could
Tom Ferguson
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Updike had an interesting view of the world. He lived in a world of trolley cars and old houses in the midst of suburban transformation. His writings often look back to the 30's and 40's and he likes his protagonist to be an older man remembering his childhood. I am especially drawn to some of his sharp commentary on life - "It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you." An interesting set of stories and a nice read. ...more
Thomas J. Hubschman
Aug 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. I haven't much cared for his work as a whole, but I did greatly admire his use of the language in an earlier collection. In this he seems prolix and repetitive and preoccupied with his own navel. ...more
Stephen Murley
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the last collection of stories from one of America's finest storyteller. Beautiful sentences you want to read over and over. "Personal Archaeolgy" was my favorite story. This is a must read for any Updike fan. I really miss him! ...more
Sandra McLeod
Feb 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, short-stories
Updike is the ultimate storyteller and weaves a delicate and bittersweet thread through all these stories that will stay with you long after you close the book.

The prose the narrative it really is something else."Varieties of Religious Experience."And "The Accelerating Expansion of the Universe."Will stay with me for a while.All the stories are good.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Jesus, what a huge bore this was to read. I won’t say that Updike is out of touch but just that whoever he is trying to touch isn’t anyone I recognize. I think he spent too many years in the sterile environment of the New Yorker to have anything to say to anyone outside of his microscopic world.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit this but I wanted to hate this collection of John Updike stories. They are just about exactly what I expected from having read some of his novels. For the most part these are to
I expected better given the author's very caustic and cynical reputation.
The last collection of short stories written before his death (but published posthumously) cannot help but think that some short stories are unfinished or proofread. Likewise, we note (bitterly?) that a consecrated author can afford largesse with the short story genre. Ultimately, it is more the publisher than the author who is responsible for such a mixture.
The whole is, therefore, unequal. There are pearls, on 9/11, for e
Owen Townend
I probably shouldn't have read this, Updike's last collection, first.
I found the nostalgic tone overwhelming and felt that the descriptions went on perhaps a bit too long.
That being said, Updike constructs some beautiful images and sentimental sentences. I really came to appreciate the gentle optimism demonstrated in these later life tales.
I also had no idea that the classic author lived into the 21st Century.
I think I'll read his first novel next...

Notable Stories

• The Guardians - the most succ
Judith Squires
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've always loved his writing. This, I believe, was one of his last short story collections. A lot of these are melancholy and concerned about aging, and looking back at childhood and early married life. He had an absolutely uncanny ability to notice the most ordinary details and childhood and make them extraordinary. He once said that his writing was an attempt "to give the mudane its beautiful due." He succeeded. ...more
Cody Winfrey
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Updike touches on some of the linguistic brilliance of his earlier work, but the nearness of death and a fondness for flashing back to an era when he could write about young love souring and rust belt infidelity shows that even at the end he knew his limits and wasn't really reaching. Varieties of Religious experience ( the 9/11 one) is cringeworthy though. ...more
Jun Chen
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Updike wrote his stories like he was telling them. You could almost hear his reading, sometimes the ups and downs, the punctuation drenched in emotions and thoughts; sometimes tame as a stream in the midsummers day.

But my favorite joke about Updike is from Bojack Horseman -

Todd- "What's updike?" Mr. PB- "Not much, dyke, what's up with you?.. is Dyke an okay thing to say now?"
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read

The stories start off slow, but eventually grow on you. Without having fantastic tales of murder, sex or betrayal the stories were nevertheless still riveting in their prose and in their detail and passion.
Aranya Iyer
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Couldn't bring myself to finish it after the first couple stories.
The writing style was amazing and the imagery was vivid but I agree with other reviews that say that it's the same story again and again and again.
Maybe I'll give it a try later in my life.
Russell George
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Somehow this collection felt a bit laboured. Clearly Updike is concerned with looking back at his life, and that’s fine, but the stories themselves lacked spark. Many of them were much longer than they needed to be, and tended to meander. Shame really.
Bill Kidd
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quite wonderful, some of the most beautiful writing I have encountered since the last time. I had forgotten how fabulous he is. The master at his best.
Rosemary Roddy
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
My Father’s Tears captures the power of memory beautifully. I would recommend this short story collection to anybody interested in aging, family dynamics, or boyhood.
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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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