Couples by John Updike

Monday, July 13, 2009

The characters in Couples sure do drink a lot - cocktails, often gin based. Though gin came from the UK, I consider it to be the red, white and blue of spirits. Even though the main focus of this wonderful novel centered on adultery, I was more intrigued by the role alcohol played in American life from post World War II up until today.

I have the impression so much of the dionystic fury during the booming post-war decades was fueled by booze: the 5 pm cocktail on the porch, the late summer neighborhood BBQ kicked off with martinis , or the boat drinks while idling on some vessel in the harbor. The cocktail in se represents this period of iconic bliss which is not as prevalent now as it was before. Though the consumptions of spirits is certainly something better done without, I do see a small reflection of our society in the splinters of ice floating atop of stub glass.

was written in 1968, long before I was even born. Yet, it still brought back memories of my own childhood spent in the late summer months on the East Coast.

The story is based on a series of families living in a small community south of Boston. These young, educated couples spend incredible amounts of time entertaining each other with dinner, drinking, and pick-up basketball games that then lead into beers then dinner and more drinking. The stresses of long commutes, grueling travel schedules, or duel working parents, did not seem to be too relevant in these carefree times. Instead, the majority of the characters mental resources were dedicated to plotting their next extramarital affair. The detail and description of these sexual encounters is risque at times, hilarious at others.

The setting in the small town above the long beaches of the Atlantic accompanied my own sand filled vacation very nicely.


Amber Isaacs July 13, 2009 at 11:59 PM  

I agree with your comment on drinking and extramarital affairs. These two themes do seem to dominate in post-war literature. I had similar thoughts recently upon reading Revolutionary Road,Richard Yates, and some Doris Lessing, a British author, short stories. I think I will pick this novel up as my next project.

Fred July 14, 2009 at 5:41 AM  

If Updike wrote _Couples_ today, would he substitute cocaine for alcohol?

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