Synopses & Reviews
A collection both intimate and generous of the eloquent, insightful, beautifully written prose works that John Updike was compiling when he died in January 2009.
This collection of miscellaneous prose opens with a self-portrait of the writer in winter, a Prospero who, though he fears his most dazzling performances are behind him, reveals himself in every sentence to be in deep conversation with the sources of his magic. It concludes with a moving meditation on a modern world robbed of imagination--a world without religion, without art--and on the difficulties of faith in a disbelieving age. In between are previously uncollected stories and poems, a pageant of scenes from seventeenth-century Massachusetts, five late "golf dreams," and several of Updike's commentaries on his own work. At the heart of the book are his matchless reviews--of John Cheever, Ann Patchett, Toni Morrison, William Maxwell, John le Carré, and essays on Aimee Semple McPherson, Max Factor, and Albert Einstein, among others. Also included are two decades of art criticism--on Chardin, El Greco, Blake, Turner, Van Gogh, Max Ernest, and more.
Updike's criticism is gossip of the highest order, delivered in an intimate and generous voice.
"Carduff has finished the job Updike began before his 2009 death, assembling nearly 100 uncollected pieces by 'the preeminent literary journalist of our times.' Predominantly comprising literary and art criticism from a range of magazines, the volume also embraces poetry, fiction, memoir, and Updike's comments on his own work. The hallmarks of his agile, eloquent prose are evident throughout, along with an exactitude of expression that was Updike's alone as he reviews works by such writers as John Cheever, le CarrÃ©, and Nabokov. Essays on artists such as El Greco, William Blake, and Turner, and some lesser known artists, blend his considerable knowledge with sometimes cranky wit: 'For sheer viewer discomfort,' a van Gogh show at the Met forces 'too many people... in Ã¢Â€Â˜docile masses' to see practically nothing.' The seven stories, including one initially accepted, then rejected, by the New Yorker, while not his best, are lively. Five essays on golf are humorous and wistful. The first piece, 'The Writer in Winter,' mourns the aging writer's occasional inability to think of the right word and defines the essence of fine prose, which 'should have a flow, a foreword momentum of a certain energized weight; it should feel like a voice tumbling into your ear.' Updike's does. 40 illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
was the author of more than sixty books, including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His novels have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hugging the Shore
, an earlier collection of essays and reviews, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He died in January 2009.
Christopher Carduff, the editor of this volume, is a member of the staff of The Library of America.