John Updike became popular for his Rabbit series about Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom and the film of his book, The Witches of Eastwick, starring a devilish Jack Nicholson. But Couples, first published in 1968 in the USA by Knopf [below], is hailed as the novel which brought the Sixties sexual revolution to literary fiction. First editions of the Knopf hardback can be found on eBay for $15, and £15 on Amazon UK. Perhaps one to lay down for the future? Updike won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice, in 1982 and 1991, for two of his Rabbit books.
The current UK Penguin Classics edition [below] dates from 2007. Buy
It is 1962 in Tarbox, Massachusetts. Against a backdrop of real historical events – the loss of the USS Thresher in 1963, the Profumo Affair, the Kennedy assassination – a group of ten promiscuous couples struggle to reconcile modern sexual freedoms with established Protestant sexual behaviour. The lyrical descriptions of sex made the book rather notorious. When asked about the difficulties of writing about sex, Updike said, “They were no harder than landscapes and a little more interesting. It’s wonderful the way people in bed talk, the sense of voices and the sense of warmth, so that as a writer you become kind of warm also. The book is, of course, not about sex as such: It’s about sex as the emergent religion, as the only thing left.”
Above is my edition of Couples, Penguin UK 1981 and, below, a variety of covers UK, US and international editions from 1968 to today.
Read the first paragraph of Couples.
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
First Edition: COUPLES by John Updike #oldbooks #bookcovers https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3HJ via @SandraDanby