In this wry novel of sentimental education and sexual pursuit, we follow Owen Mackenzie, a representative man of the author’s generation, from cradle to grave, and from bed to bed. His life and relationships are shaped by three villages, warm-lit communities that keep the darkness at bay from within and without. In Willow, Pennsylvania, the young Owen is transfixed by his first glimpses of female beauty. In Middle Falls, Connecticut, he marries, becomes a first-wave computer programmer, and discovers the very grownup pleasures of serial adultery. Finally, married for a second time, he retires with his memories, illusions, and fantasies to the somewhat geriatric community of Haskells Crossing, Massachusetts. John Updike turns Owen’s personal odyssey into a radiant, sensual fable of the seasons of a man’s life—and of the getting of wisdom in America.
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|Title of eBook: Villages|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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i. Dream On, Dear Owen
FOR A LONG TIME, his wife has awoken early, at five or five-thirty. By the rhythms of her chemistry, sometimes discordant with Owen’s, Julia wakes full of affection for him, her companion on the bed’s motionless voyage through that night of imperfect sleep. She hugs him and, above his protests that he is still sleeping, declares in a soft but relentless voice how much she loves him, how pleased she is by their marriage. “I’m just so happy with you.”
This after twenty-five years of life together. He is seventy, she sixty-five; her announcement, newsworthy to her, slightly insults him: how could it be otherwise? After all their trials, and the pain they gave others. They waded through; here they are, on the other side. She tugs at him; she twists his head in order to kiss his mouth. But his lips are puffy and numb with sleep, and in his anesthetized state, his nerves misaligned, it feels like an attempt to suffocate him; it rubs him, as people used to say, the wrong way. After a few minutes more of lovestricken fidgeting, while he stubbornly fails to respond, protecting the possibility of returning to his precious dreams, Julia relents and rises from the bed, and Owen, gratefully stretching himself into her vacated side, falls asleep for another hour or two.
One morning in this last, stolen hour he dreams that, in a house he does not know (it has a shabby, public air to it, as of a boarding-house or a hospital) faceless official presences guide him into a room where, on a bed like theirs, two single beds yoked together to make a king-size, a man—rather young, to judge from the smoothness of his blond body, wi