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John Updike

OK, Ted Kennedy, Michael Jackson, Mark Fidrych, but let's not forget John Updike. Considering he's not one of my favorite writers, it's surprising how many of his novels I have read: all of the Rabbit books, with the exception of Rabbit Remembered, plus five others. And I won't deny that I really dug Nicholson Baker's U and I, a book about Baker's obsession with Updike.

What is it about Updike that struck a chord with me? For one, the books perfectly capture the zietgeist of the times in which they are set. Updike was born in 1932, the same year as my dad, and when he portrays family life in the seventies, I know from experience that it is spot on. I don't know if people will still be reading Updike in a hundred years, but if they want to know what life was like in nineteen-seventies America, they would be well-advised to check him out. What's more, his ear for American colloquial English is perfect, while his prose is beautiful, a la Nabokov. But where Nabokov's writing is like some sort of rarified laboratory experiment (nobody talks like Nabokov wrote), you can easily imagine somebody speaking like Updike wrote.

There's a lot of sex and infidelity in his books, but you'd be hard pressed to call it porn. How could you accurately chronicle the seventies without it? And he loved him some golf, but I guess we'll just have to forgive him that. While I confess to often ignoring the reviews he penned for the New Yorker, I'll happily admit to being a fan of his novels. Ave atque vale.

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sledding

February 2018

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