BOOKS: WE LOST IT AT THE MOVIES

WHERE DID AMERICA'S FAITH GO? JOHN UPDIKE TRIES TO EXPLAIN IN HIS 17TH NOVEL--AN OLD-FASHIONED MULTIGENERATIONAL EPIC

ALL JOHN UPDIKE'S 16 previous novels have employed artful compressions, alluding to past events, when necessary, through a vivid present. Sometimes their titles make this focus clear: A Month of Sundays, Memories of the Ford Administration (which lasted, for those who missed or have forgotten it, about 30 months). Even the tetralogy of books that portray Rabbit Angstrom concentrates on spasms of activity set at 10-year intervals of his life. It is therefore surprising to learn that In the Beauty of the Lilies (Knopf; 491 pages; $25.95) covers a whopping 80 years and four generations of a single American family. In...

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