"Stunning...Alf's life and times are light and funny; Buchanan's are dark and serious. Alternating between the two, Mr. Updike entertains and instructs...in gorgeous prose." THE WALL STREET JOURNAL When junior college professor Alfred Clayton is asked to record his impressions of the Ford Administration, he recalls a turbulent piece of personal history as well. In a decade of sexual liberation, Clayton was facing a doomed marriage and the passionate beginnings of a futile affair with an unattainable Perfect Wife. But one memory begets another: Clayton's unfinished book on James Buchanan. In John Updike's fifteenth novel, he masterfully alternates between the two men, two lives, two American centuries--one Victorian, the other modern--shining an irreverent, witty, and sometimes caustic light on the contrasting views of social fictions and sexual politics.... A MAIN SELECTION OF THE BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK From the Paperback edition.