John Updike’s first collection of nonfiction pieces, published in 1965 when the author was thirty-three, is a diverting and illuminating gambol through midcentury America and the writer’s youth. It opens with a choice selection of parodies, casuals, and “Talk of the Town” reports, the fruits of Updike’s boyish ambition to follow in the footsteps of Thurber and White. These jeux d’esprit are followed by “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” an immortal account of Ted Williams’s last at-bat in Fenway Park; “The Dogwood Tree,” a Wordsworthian evocation of one Pennsylvania childhood; and five autobiographical essays and stories. Rounding out the volume are classic considerations of Nabokov, Salinger, Spark, Beckett, and others, the earliest efforts of the book reviewer who would go on to become, in The New York Times’s estimation, “the pre-eminent critic of his generation.” Updike called this collection “motley but not unshapely.” Some would call it a classic of its kind.
“Assorted Prose [delivers] wonderfully funny parodies, brilliant analyses of style, passionate memories, stunning forays into love and expectation and cruelty, and a voice very much involved with the extraordinary act of living, the art of wonder, the art of art.”—The New York Times Book Review
“John Updike has never yet parted with a word before its shape conformed to the creator’s purpose. . . . [For those] who didn’t see it in The New Yorker in 1960, his grandstand account of Ted Williams’s last trip to the plate (Williams hit a home run) is worth the full price of admission to these pages.”—Time
“Fascinating . . . Updike’s versatility is as apparent as his mastery of the language.”—Saturday Review