Wednesday 28 January 2009

Updike - A Few Words

The more literary regions of the blogosphere will be - or already are - ablaze with talk of John Updike today, and rightly so. I have little to add, except to say that he gave me some of the great reading experiences of my life, for which I shall be always thankful. He was a prose stylist like no other, at once supremely delicate and utterly ruthless, with the sharpest , most curious eye of any fiction writer of the 20th century - an artist's eye. At his best (for me, in Marry Me, rather than the overblown, overpraised Couples), he wrote of the Great Subject of the novel - adulterous love - more vividly and truly than, again, any fiction writer of the 20th century. (Huw Edwards, bless him, on the BBC News summed up his subjects as 'divorce, sex and other aspects of American life'.) Of course he wrote too much - he couldn't help himself - and of course his later works were often iffy, but a good half dozen of the novels surely deserve to live - I'd go for three of the Rabbits (not Redux), Marry Me, A Month of Sundays and Roger's Version, for starters - and several dozen of the short stories. Enough, in my book, to mark him down as one of the 20th century's greats. RIP.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the short stories, the essays, and a few of the novels will have very long lives. I just said more about him on Bryan's site, but I want to concur with you here, too.

    For me, his Rabbit novels didn't resonate because I think they were really meant for suburban white men of a certain age and social class. In fact, I know very few women who like those novels or have even read them. But he grew and I really did like the Witches of Eastwick novels. By that last one ("The Widows of Eastwick"), which I reviewed, he had really reached a place where he understood women and had immense compassion for them in their relationships with men.

    I laud the guy, and I'll miss his presence in American letters.