Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Updike remembered and re-evaluated

Since John Updike's death on January 27, tributes and reflections have come from every corner. Garrison Keillor in Salon muses,
The giants fall and we leave them behind but who is left to bless us? Nobody. As long as John was in the world, you could imagine him calling up one morning and saying, "That was good. I liked that." And now the phone is dead.
The L.A. Times looks back on Updike's divisive literary reputation. (And quotes Salman Rushdie: "He should stay in his parochial neighborhood and write about wife-swapping, because it's what he can do.")

Gawker, in typical fashion, followed up a brief and straightforward obit with juicier gossip, excerpts from author Roger Warner's recap of the funeral and the ex-lovers in attendance.
In Essex County, MA, some women in their 70s pretend they weren’t part of the Couples scene, while others who weren’t part of it wished they had been, because their lives have been so uneventful.
(My favorite part of Warner's article is the generalizing about the North Shore that follows in the comments. And the grammar lesson hidden in this insight: "He sure wrote good books but it’s sad how he runt his marriage." Runt, pronounced roont, the past tense of ruin.)

Even my hometown newspaper, The Morning Call, where high school football scores and crotchety "get off my lawn" editorials weigh heavier than cultural matters, gets in on the action. Now that both writers are gone, they've started the debate on who captured regional Pennsylvania more accurately, Updike, who fictionalized his native Reading and Shillington, or John O'Hara, who set some of his work in Pottsville and Schuylkill County. As of Tuesday, the reader's poll had Updike winning the authenticity race at 75% of a whopping 4 votes.

Updike was on the Charlie Rose show about thirty-eight times, if YouTube's collection is any evidence. Here's a two-minute clip from a 1997 show where Updike talks about killing off his canonical character, Rabbit Angstrom, in the final book of the Rabbit series, 1996's Rabbit at Rest.

There are a number of other clips on the Charlie Rose site.

Rose has dedicated two episodes to appreciations of Updike's life and work since he died. Sam Tanenhaus, David Remnick, and Judith Jones appeared on January 29. And Adam Gopnik (author of Paris to the Moon, among others) appeared on Feburary 4.

If you haven't read any of Updike's work (and honestly—I'm in my early 30s, not many of my peers have read him if he wasn't on a syllabus), Amazon has used copies of most of his novels, or try Bookmooch if you want to trade in your O'Hara for the Rabbit tetralogy.

No comments:

Post a Comment