BOOKS: Doglegs of Decrepitude

John Updike's fine new book of stories looks at boys grown old

John Updike's first collection of short stories, The Same Door, appeared in 1959. Depending on how his voluminous work is categorized, he has produced either five, seven or nine such collections since then. (Don't ask; it gets complicated.) In any case, with The Afterlife and Other Stories (Knopf; 316 pages; $24), Updike enters a fifth decade of turning out new short fiction, and neither he nor his stories seem any the worse for wear.

The same, however, cannot be said of the people within these tales. Almost to a man -- and yes, for those readers to whom such things matter,...

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