The Centaur by John Updike

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The Centaur is a modern retelling of the legend of Chiron, the noblest and wisest of the centaurs, who, painfully wounded yet unable to die, gave up his immortality on behalf of Prometheus. In the retelling, Olympus becomes small-town Olinger High School; Chiron is George Caldwell, a science teacher there; and Prometheus is Caldwell’s fifteen-year-old son, Peter. Brilliantly conflating the author’s remembered past with tales from Greek mythology, John Updike translates Chiron’s agonized search for relief into the incidents and accidents of three winter days spent in rural Pennsylvania in 1947. The result, said the judges of the National Book Award, is “a courageous and brilliant account of a conflict in gifts between an inarticulate American father and his highly articulate son.”

About John Updike

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John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.
Published June 5, 2012 by Random House. 304 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Erotica, Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Peter's psoriasis, his love for Penny, his alerted sentience to his father's mounting despair are in counterpoint to his father's intense response to reality and equally strong sense of fantasy in which he is the Centaur....Poorhouse and Rabbit have won Updike critical acceptance and designation ...

Oct 06 2011 | Read Full Review of The Centaur

The New York Times

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On page 156 of John Updike's new novel, "The Centaur," a drunkard, weaving and tottering down a dark street in the Pennsylvania city of Alton, offensively insults two passers by.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

As he looks out at his father receding in the snow, the window seems to frame a painting which holds some harsh but promising truth: I knew what this scene was — a patch of Pennsylvania in 1947 — and yet I did not know, was in my softly fevered state mindlessly soaked in a rectangle of colored ...

Sep 30 2009 | Read Full Review of The Centaur

The New York Review of Books

The title, grindingly reinforced by the tasteful Hellenic fragment on the cover, sounds the warning note of “significance” and the severe intention is further signaled by a dark quotation from Karl Barth on the title page: something about man being “a creature on the boundary between heaven and e...

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