This just in

John Updike, R.I.P.

12 responses to “This just in”

  1. Rabbit at Rest In Peace.

  2. Dave says:

    I was really enjoying how the response was crickets chirping. Does anyone here really passionately love Updike?

  3. I really liked LanguageHat‘s response — “I grew impatient in recent years with his ubiquitous, endlessly fluent and charming reviews and essays that said nothing much in particular, but at his best he was a superb writer of novels and short stories.” Everybody I’m reading seems to sort of be saying well, the Rabbit novels were great although maybe they weren’t among our very favorites. There’s a lot of griping about how American authors never win the Nobel Prize for literature, in the context of John Updike never having won said prize, which seems a bit silly to me.

  4. swells says:

    I don’t passionately love Updike–in fact was pretty outraged by him at first when I started the Rabbit tetralogy for a graduate seminar. As many have said before, his descriptions of women really irked me. As I read all the way through the four novels, though, his style started to quietly grab me, and eventually he became a sort of guilty pleasure, with his Ice Storm settings of New England supersuburban dystopias. I’ve always been a sucker for the novels that dissect the mechanics of marriages, and he’s got loads (about 15 on my shelf alone). Plus, you just can’t teach intro to lit without throwing the students the delightful treat of “A&P”! So, no, I don’t passionately love him–for a while I thought of him as more of a guilty pleasure–but eventually I settled on full respect and admiration for him.

  5. Rachel says:

    It feels like a certain era, a certain way of being American, is now gone forever, and there’s no one left to evoke what it was. I don’t claim that it’s either good or bad–only that its chroniclers are gone. From now on, people entering adulthood will have no memory of the 20th century. Weird.

  6. swells says:

    Well, Roth and Irving are still around, but for how much longer?

  7. Rachel says:

    Do you think Irving will be remembered as a major author?

    Do people still read Philip Roth? Or is he one of those guys whose books people buy but don’t crack open, a la Norman Mailer?

    Not trying to be snarky–I really wonder.

  8. I think a lot more people still read and dig Roth than Updike. I’m not a huge partisan of Roth but I’ve been pretty blown away by a couple of his books. If I were compiling a list of major American novelists, Roth’s name would occur to me way in advance of Updike’s.

  9. Dave says:

    Yeah, I’ll always love Roth for Goodbye, Columbus, which I find breathtakingly beautiful. And I’ve seen loads of people reading The Plot Against America on the subways or discussing it on blogs. He’s still relevant.

    Irving for me is very enjoyable upper-middlebrow.

  10. An author I never hear mentioned in this group (Updike, Roth, Irving, Mailer…) but whom I think is part of the group and I think a superior writer to any of them, is Joseph Heller. Granted I only really know two of his books; but I think Something Happened is the very best novel of its type.

  11. (It’s probably overkill to say Heller is a better writer than Roth. So just, SH spoke more strongly to me than anything I have read by Roth.)

  12. swells says:

    Roth’s The Counterlife is . . . just . . . amazing. Technically it’s the sequel to the Zuckerman Bound trilogy/tetralogy (depending how you count it), but it stands on its own (I teach it without the others) and I think it’s fantastic.