It Didn’t Limn Life Well Enough

Michiko doesn’t like the new collection of John Updike’s early stories very much.

Arguing that “a selection, surely, is best left to others, when the author is no longer alive to obstruct the process,” Mr. Updike has included virtually every short piece of fiction he wrote between 1953 and 1975 within these pages (presumably the later ones will be gathered in a gargantuan volume yet to come), and the resulting 800-plus-page book is a decidedly spotty production, filled indiscriminately with classic gems that attest to the author’s determination “to give the mundane its beautiful due”; clumsy apprentice works with creaky, contrived endings; and later ham-handed experimental efforts to expand Mr. Updike’s fictional terrain.