There are so many John Updike short stories out there that the author has managed to cover almost every aspect of basic life, including romance, sex, love, death, religion and family. In fact, the prolific writer published twelve official collections of his short stories and wrote many more that were only published in magazines, such as The New Yorker.
Updike (1932-2009) is best known as a novelist. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice in his life, as well as the National Medal of Art and National Medal of Humanities. He also wrote short stories, poetry, essays, critiques and even a children's book.
Updike's published collections of short stories includes The Same Door in 1959, Pigeon Fathers in 1962, Olinger Stories in 1964, The Music School in 1966, Museums and Women in 1972, Too Far to Go in 1979, Problems in 1979, Trust Me in 1984, The Afterlife in 1994, Licks of Love in 2000, The Early Stories in 2003 and My Father's Tears in 2009.
The Same Door
Updike published his first collection of short stories, The Same Door, in 1959. The 16 stories were collected from pieces he had published in The New Yorker magazine. The tales usually revolve around a young adult male and include common life.
The many short stories in The Same Door include one about the game of golf and another about a student home on break. One of the most popular stories, "Ace in the Hole," is about a former basketball star now with wife and child. Though the subjects appear mundane at first, Updike brings out the beauty and depth in each tale.
Updike published Olinger Stories in 1964, his third collection of short stories. The tales are all set in the fictional town of Olinger, Penn. They detail the life of a small boy growing up in a small town, an echo of Updike's own upbringing. The stories focus heavily on middle-class life and basic Americana themes.
The most popular tale in Olinger Stories is "Pigeon Feathers," which became the title of Updike's next collection. The story revolves around a young man's sudden crisis with the concept of death. After much brooding, the man discovers a dead pigeon and reflects on God's mastery. He decides that God will allow him to exist after death and finds peace.
Updike's 1994 collection of short stories, The Afterlife, is a rather nostalgic and somewhat depressing work. It focuses mostly on life after the children have been raised and careers have been built. It involves mid-life crisis, spousal resentment, sexual insecurities, marriages, divorces and inevitable nature of death.
A popular story from Updike's The Afterlife collection is "Short Easter." The story revolves around a man who realizes that Easter Sunday is going to be cut an hour short due to the start of daylight-savings time. The situation causes the man to focus on his other losses.
My Father's Tears
The 18 short stories collected into My Father's Tears were published after Updike's death in 2009. The volume contains a wide variety of tales, most of them retrospective in nature. From the widower who realizes he misses his deceased wife that he once despised to a small town high school reunion that picks up on a conversation started years before, the stories have a vivid, but melancholy atmosphere.
The most powerful tale in Updike's My Father's Tears is "Varieties of Religious Experience." The piece details the drastically different stories of four people and their reactions to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.