I enjoyed reading the short story. I also enjoyed the idea of Updike offering me to do mathematics and engineering in the hope of actually solving them. Of course, I couldn’t, even if I immensely enjoyed Trigonometry in my first year as a civil engineering student. I mean, who could? I will avoid that person who could solve these problems. Besides, even if I could, I wouldn’t try; it would be like counting the exact number of stars in the galaxy. Yes, human nature is that complex. But, say, for the sake of argument, the first five problems are solved as presented in the sixth item, why is Updike asking what is missing? The perfection of a situation, or perfection at the very least, is a problem in itself, don’t you think?
|My old and torn copy of Problems and Other Stories by John Updike (Photo by Nancy Cudis)|
Updike, who died three years ago of cancer, is best known for his Rabbit novels. A prolific American writer, he is also known for his stories (thankfully, he did not neglect writing short stories) on the middle class, which he outright preferred, saying that “it is in the middle that extremes clash, where ambiguity restlessly rules”. In Problems, the characteristics of the middle class are quite evident, as shown in the third item wherein a family sent all four children to colleges and private schools and barely coping, and in the fourth item wherein the person would go through lengths to have peastones on the driveway. Now why would he do that?
I also read Updike’s Fairy Godfathers, which made me wonder if the author had anything against psychiatrists, and Last Glimpses of Daughter, which is just as moving and evocative. These three stories are part of the author’s short story collection, Problems and Other Stories. I own a copy.
I encourage you to read any of the short stories by Updike. If you have, please share them here and let us know what you think. What other Updike’s short stories would you recommend?
- Nancy -
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