Michelle Kung
November 07, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

At 838 pages, John Updike’s comprehensive collection The Early Stories, 1953-1975 is initially intimidating — but ultimately satisfying. The oldest story is 1953’s ”Ace in the Hole,” composed while he was a Harvard senior. An unsentimental look at a young couple’s struggle with domestic and career disillusionment, ”Ace” demonstrates Updike’s masterful ability to find beauty in the mundane and foreshadows the emotional complexity of his later novels. It’s also good to see Updike’s Olinger stories, 11 thoughtful coming-of-age tales based on his Depression-era upbringing in rural Pennsylvania, back in print. Other gems include the wistful ”When Everyone Was Pregnant” and ”Eros Rampant” — both make thumbing through this hefty compilation worth the effort.

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