John Updike, RIP

I was 15 or so when I first read a John Updike novel. To my amazement, it was fun to read. The novels I’d read in English class, such as Oliver Twist, had never been fun to read. I read a lot more Updike and figured out he liked Nabokov. So I picked up Pnin. I loved Nabokov, it turned out. You could say Updike was an easy-listening version of Nabokov. He was the first person who taught me to enjoy literature. He was the bridge.

For a long time I read almost everything he wrote (except The Poorhouse Fair) but around S. I stopped. Maybe because I was watching more TV. I continued to read all his stuff in The New Yorker, but maybe it is fitting that, in his entire career, the thing he said that I like best occurred on TV. In a National Book Award acceptance speech (1998) he said, “A book is beautiful in its relation to the human hand, to the human eye, to the human brain, and to the human spirit.”

2 Responses to “John Updike, RIP”

  1. Nansen Says:

    I wonder what your opinion is of the following sort of criticism (of Nabokov, and also of Updike), which seems to say “less art, please, for our sake”:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2000072/entry/1002666/

  2. seth Says:

    It’s okay. I think Woods misses a lot. For example, he writes, “Nabokov imparts the idea that fictional narrative is, at its highest moments, a string of such details, a convoy of little visual perfection.” I disagree. There was a lot more to it than that. Canto 3 of Pale Fire is about the death of the poet’s daughter. Lolita is about unattainable love. Transparent Things is about mourning. Pnin is about a lonely professor.