I started reading John Updike early on in the Sixties. I've managed to keep his first two collections all this time. I've always thought of him as a kind of Rembrandt of prose, bold portraits subtly nuanced. He was one of those writers you could read for the simple pleasure of enjoying language yet he was never pretentious or overwrought. My biggest thrill with Updike was reading Rabbit, Run for the first time. For a proper New Englander like Updike Rabbit was a punch in the face. I sensed it also freed him. When you look at the variety of subjects he dealt with in his later career you can look back and see that Rabbit opened the door. By chance two weeks ago Carol read one of his recent stories and passed it on to me. What a fine writer and, I suspect, fine man he was.
I received four off-line e mails from friends of mine, all female, about my comments on The Real Housewives of Orange County last night. I was aware that what I said was sexist and shallow but that seemed to me--and still seems to me--appropriate given the subject matter. These women are under the impression that they're trophy wives. I'm sure there's romantic love involved but there's also the cool hard taint of a business deal. All I was saying was that if I had a million dollars and wanted to buy me a trophy wife I'd go to a different car lot from the ones where these were found.
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It's hard to convey to readers today how amazing he was. He took on cultural mores and historical events. Bellow, Updike, Cheever, Malamud. Only Roth goes on.
Pynchon, Patti. Grace Paley, Tillie Olsen too constrained?(though they are gone)...Oates too likely to return to the same themes? (Though those men did, too.)
Sorry to see Updike depart us... one of his short stories, "A&P," has always stuck in my mind. A seemingly simple story about a teenage cashier at an A&P store, Updike manages to shove in teenage sexuality, prudity, classism and the nature of work and taking a stand all in one short story. Very impressive!
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