An infrequently updated dumping ground for one culture junkie's thoughts on film and whatever else

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Morbidity

Huh. We now live in a world in which Philip Roth still breathes but John Updike doesn't. Weird to think about. I can easily imagine the two men—born a year apart, in 1933 and 1932 respectively—joking with each other about who was more likely to kick the bucket first. The Jew and the gentile, Nathan Zuckerman and Rabbit Angstrom, the two great termite-art realists of the postwar era. I recall a passage from one of the Zuckerman books in which Nathan (Roth's fictional stand-in) receives a piece of salacious mail intended for Updike. I think it is safe (and funny) to assume this really happened. Confession: I haven't actually read an Updike novel. A few short stories here and there, which I honestly wasn't crazy about; suburban marriage trouble is not a subject that holds great fascination for me, at least not in and of itself. But I've got an old copy of Rabbit, Run sitting on my bookshelf. It's been there for years. Maybe now's the time? After all, Updike was gracious enough to appear on The Simpsons ("Shut up, Updike!") which is more than we can say for grumpy old Roth.

2 comments:

  1. Sam Kleinman and I talked about this earlier, and we said the same thing about not really loving Updike but appreciating him as a contributor and a talent. On the other hand I love Roth. Also, that Norman Mailer once dared call Updike a mediocre writer and borderline hack, well, it speaks for itself I guess.

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  2. I read somewhere, I forget where, that John Updike was our greatest novelist who didn't have single great novel. Anyway, I've read Rabbit, Run, and after reading it I did say to myself, "O.K., so that's why everybody loves Updike so much: the man can write," but in the end I'm with Caroline: Updike I appreciate; Roth I love.

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