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Adam Sexton. 1. What was I thinking? What was I thinking when I assigned John Updike’s The Centaur to my Lit. and Comp. I class at Parsons School of Design. The Centaur [John Updike] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND THE PRIX DU MEILLEUR. Editorial Reviews. Review. “A Triumph Of Love And Art.” — The Washington Post ” A brilliant The Centaur: A Novel – Kindle edition by John Updike. Download it.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — The Centaur by John Updike. The Centaur by John Updike. Paperbackpages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about The Centaurplease sign up. This question contains spoilers… view spoiler [Does anyone else think Caldwell committed suicide at the end of the novel? Updike describes the schoolteacher standing under a lampin the schoolyard watching the shadows of falling snowflakes and johh on the recesion of galaxies in the universe.

Whee is this section? See 2 questions about The Centaur…. Lists with This Book.

The Greeks always depicted him with human front legs. Chiron educated the children of the gods and goddesses so he is an apt mythological creature for George Caldwell to identify with. George Caldwell is a school teacher at Olinger High School.

The Centaur

His mind is so expansive that it often slips the bonds of Earth. One of those moments when he is taken by a flight of fancy was with Vera Hummel, a teacher as well, and also a lovely woman desired by all.

John Updike is uppdike to show off his knowledge of mythological creatures as Caldwell morphs into Chiron, and she of course becomes Venus. They discuss the gods and goddesses while flirting outrageously with each other. She extorts him to help her. The narrative switches between George and his son Peter. Peter is a student at the same high school his father teaches at.

He adores his upeike, but at the same time his father is so exasperating. George is self-deprecating to a painful point, and as an extension of his own view of himself, he wears a ratty cap and a dilapidated coat that make him look more like a bum than a well educated teacher. Peter is afraid for his father because he seems so vulnerable, so inept at the updikke mundane things, so lost in thoughts that can never be solved.

In a moment centair frustration, he yells at his father. He prefered to live in town where he could walk everywhere he needed to be.

After one of these thwarted attempts, they end up spending the night in the Hummel house. It proves to be an eye opening experience for Peter to have a day away from the chaos of their own household and have a glimpse at centaud normal people live.

Vera truly becomes a magical goddess dispensing orange juice and bananas upon him like ambrosia. Updike does occasionally veer off course leaving the reader in the middle of the road looking in all directions for the smoke plumes of the car crash. Easily forgiven when Updike writes understated gems like the paragraph below.


The blankets my body had heated became soft chains dragging me down; my mouth held a stale ambrosia lulling me to sleep again. The lemon-yellow wallpaper, whose small dark medallions peered out from the pattern with faces like frowning cats, remained printed, negatively in red, on my eyelids.

His father was a teacher. His grandfather was a priest. Are they predestined to be teachers? Will they start the climb back to the priesthood? I identified with both characters. Less so with Peter as time marches me further and further away from those heady days of youth. I was so skinny I thought any girl would think there was something wrong with me, like a bad case of ringworm or some wasting disease.

He sees life as larger than it could possibly be. He rises so high on the wings of his thoughts that when he crashes, it proves to be a long fall back to Earth.

He battles daily with the odious, student stroking, Supervising Principal Zimmerman, who besides caressing female students also tortures George with obtuse evaluations of his teaching style.

The question that plagues George is the one that eventually plagues most of us As the pendulum of time continues to duck walk me onward with my heels dragging and my hands grasping for purchase on anything to slow the motion forward, I too ask that question.

Ok, well, maybe not THAT. It does beg the question of what more is, and once we find and hogtie this mythical MOREthen what? It seems to me that most of us are just never supposed to be fulfilled. The thought of fulfillment is just depressing. It reminds me of the Matrix where they designed a world where everyone was happy and the citizens started committing suicide.

We should achieve I think, but maybe not achieve too much. We always have to be left with something to dream about. I could not put down this flawed, but wonderful book. I do hope that he does experience a resurgence of readers because there are writers in the next generation that would benefit from reading these eloquent and graceful sentences that Updike sprinkles liberally like a trail of emeralds through the texts of his books.

I read this book to reconnect with his writing in anticipation of reading Updike by Adam Begley. The name of the author may be familiar to some. He is the son of Louis Begley, the writer that best carries the Updike torch forward in his own writing. Centuar, he is 81, so someone else will soon have to shoulder the Updike legacy.

I have recently, in my hubris, launched a blog which will host my book reviews, but it will also have so much more. For example, I recently wrote a movie review of Birdman. I plan to write about whatever updie my fancy.

The Centaur by John Updike | : Books

View all 31 comments. Apr 10, Joyn Babenco rated it it was amazing. The Founding Fathers in their wisdom decided that children were an unnatural strain on parents.

So they provided jails called schools, equipped with tortures called an education. Every child, in order to be ready to reside in the vast world, must be educated and there is no better educator than the centaur Chiron: The Centqur sun was growing warmer.


hpdike Birdsong encircling the clearing turned sluggish. Chiron felt in his blood the olive trees on the plain rejoice. In the cities, worshippers mounting the white temple steps would feel the marble hot on their unsandalled feet.

He took his class for their lesson to the shade of a great chestnut tree that it was said Pelasgus himself had planted.

The trunk was as thick around as a shepherd’s cottage. The boys arranged themselves swaggeringly among the roots as if among the bodies of slain enemies; the girls more demurely upidke postures of ease cwntaur areas of moss. Chiron inhaled; air like honey expanded the spaces of his chest; his students completed the centaur.

Crntaur fleshed his wisdom with expectation. The wintry chaos of information within him, elicited into sunlight, was struck though with the young colors of optimism. Had the world been watching, it would have been startled, for my belly, as if pecked by a great bird, was dotted with red scabs the size of coins. The very centaut of the allergy, so foreign, so twisty in the mouth, so apt to prompt stammering, intensified the humiliation.

It was not a disease, because I generated it out of myself. As an allergy, it was sensitive to almost everything: Set in lates small town America we have the stories of George Caldwell, a teacher in his 50s, and his son Peter, 15 years old and laden with psoriasis. Hohn father’s and son’s narratives switch every second chapter with the father’s narrative being in the third-person and the son’s in first-person.

The narratives that we are presented with can be read as coming-of-age stories. The son coming of age and facing the harsh reality of life centayr the father coming of age and facing the harsh reality of death. Cejtaur weaves both lives seamlessly which demonstrates his deftness with prose. Not once was I bored with this novel.

It harks back to the stories of the time from Salinger and Isherwood and the like. Readers with a penchant for Greek mythology and stories of post-war America will thoroughly enjoy this novel, as I did. Jun 25, brian rated it really liked it. Looking at this streak of black, I relived the very swipe of my palette knife, one second of my life that in a remarkable way had held firm.

It was this updiek, I think, this potential fixing of a few passing seconds, that attracted me, at the age of five, to art. For it is at about that age, isn’t it, that it sinks in upon us that jonh do, if not die, certainly change, wiggle, slide, retreat, and, like the dabs of sunlight on the bricks under a grape arbor on a breezy June day, shuffle out of all identity.

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