Books: On Demand

ASSORTED PROSE by John Updike. 326 pages. Knopf. $5.95.

The publisher calls this "a motley but not unshapely collection." Both verdicts are just. John Updike has never yet parted with a word before its shape conformed to the creator's purpose. And "motley" nicely describes the collage assembled beneath this arrogantly stark title. A short-story writer, a poet and a novelist, Updike here exhibits the hand that also fabricates nonfiction on demand: book reviews, parodies, autobiographical snippets, some of his anonymous contributions to The New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" department, all of it reprinted. The assortment casts neither light nor doubt on...

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