John Updike Links

As well as reading my first Amazon Kindle Single ready for review next week, I’ve also been reading John Updike’s short story collection, The Maples Stories. The juxtaposition between the bestselling Kindle Single and Updike’s stylistic prowess is dramatic indeed. It’s led me to return to a few articles on Updike that I’ve enjoyed over the last few years. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

  1. Updike’s 1968 Paris Review interview – it reads like an extension of one of his more cerebral novels. A sheer joy.
  2. A short, insightful piece on Updike’s theology by Ben Myers over at Faith and Theology.
  3. James Wood’s fairly critical appraisal of Updike’s later work. (Worth it for lines such as these alone: “If Updike’s earlier work was consumed with wife-swapping, his late work is consumed by nostalgia for it.”)
  4. A lovely audio-photo montage interview with Updike from 1984 (not overly informative, but enjoyable nonetheless).

The more Updike I read, the more I start asking myself the question: Updike or Bellow? All such questions are basically meaningless (except – perhaps – that oldest of chestnuts: Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?), but I begin to sense a certain reluctance in myself to cede to the inevitable preference for Bellow. There’s a great sympathy for mediocrity in Updike that, whilst present in Bellow (or in what I’ve read of him), seems somehow more attuned to habitual failure than his more esteemed counterpart.

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2 thoughts on “John Updike Links

  1. John McNassor says:

    TBG: Thanks for posting the woderful interview with Updike in the Paris Review. I’ve always loved him and have recently returned to him, especially the short stories which seem to me to shine such a bright ray on the human condition. Of the early novels The Centaur is my favorite, tearfully moving. When I was a pastor two things kept me sane: the theology of Karl Barth and the fiction of John Updike. With more philosophy under my belt I am drawn to the rich, phenomenological description he brings to the most mundane things. A lot has been written about Updike’s own reading of Barth, of whom he said he was not as careful a reader in later years, but for me the great commonality is the reality of this life as loved and touched by God, with all it’s frailty and ambiguity. I’ve often wished I could have expressed my apprecition to him personally. Perhaps this is the best I can do. John McNassor

  2. Daniel Hartley says:

    Hi John, glad you liked the Paris Review interview. I’m yet to read The Centaur, I’ll admit. As for the ‘rich, phenomenological description he brings to the most mundane things’, it’s funny you should say that: James Wood (I forget where) charges Updike with fetishizing detail, potentially at the expense of narrative as such. Maybe one man’s phenomenology is another man’s fetish 😉 Thanks for your comment. All the best, Daniel

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