He had preferred John Cheever to Updike but the novel he read floored him by being so good.
The novel was "Couples," which Updike published in 1968 and is about a group of couples in a New England town near Boston in 1963.
The Loser has trouble following plots and keeping track of who's who and, while "Couples" is not a hard read despite its eloquent sentences, he had to make a list of who was married to whom a third of the way into the book. He also began rereading the book less than half way through it. This underlines his well-known stupidity: he was rereading a book he hadn't even read yet.
Updike was a poet as well as a novelist, essayist and critic, and it shows on every page. The Loser's slack jaw would drop open regularly when reading things like this:
This frightened him, and altered the tone of his body. She felt this and opened her eyes; their Coke-bottle green was flecked with wilt. Her pupils in the sun were as small as the core of a pencil."The tone of his body," "flecked with wilt," "as small as the core of a pencil." That's in three sentences in a 458-page novel, and he maintains it throughout.
The book is largely about adultery and has many racy yet un-pornographic parts. The Loser, who has not been with a woman in this century, appreciated the Updike makes you feel as if you've spent time with the characters in "Couples."