John Updike: Middle-aged love in Rabbit Redux

John Updike
John Updike

Today is the birthday of one of my favourite writers, John Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009). Like PG Wodehouse, he is irreplaceable. No one can take his place. Lawrence Durrell and Jan Morris are the only writers I know with prose as lush and sensuous as his. And few have written of love and sex more vividly than he. Continue reading “John Updike: Middle-aged love in Rabbit Redux”

Updike: Music from Rabbit at Rest

John Updike
John Updike

Today is the birthday of one of my favourite writers, John Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009). Few have written so sensuously of love and sex – or anything else under the sun.

Here is Updike writing about one of my greatest loves – pop music from the Fifties and Sixties. This is from Rabbit at Rest. An ageing Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is listening to oldies but goldies on the radio as he drives through Florida. Here are also videos of some of the songs mentioned in the text.

Love Me Tender — Elvis Presley Continue reading “Updike: Music from Rabbit at Rest”

Remembering Updike on his birthday

John Updike
John Updike

Has anyone written better than John Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009)? Today is his birthday. He was a wonderful writer to the end of his days. I loved The Widows of Eastwick .He could make even adultery lyrical, as in Marry Me . And here is the beginning of Rabbit, Redux, the second book in the Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom saga: Continue reading “Remembering Updike on his birthday”

Good old writers

Who says old geezers can't write? Some of them die with the sharpest minds. That's certainly true of the literary critic Frank Kermode, who has just died at the age of 90.

Reading about his death yesterday, I turned to his essays published in the London Review of Books. You can't tell his age from his essay on TS Eliot published in May this year. It is the work of an academic writing at the top of his form.

There are other old writers who have not lost their powers.

Let's begin with the journalists.

Continue reading “Good old writers”

Marry Me: Bittersweet Updike

John-Updike-guardian Can anyone write like John Updike? He could make even adultery lyrical.

He does not turn a blind eye to the toll it takes. The lovers are exposed for what they are — cheating on their spouses and neglecting their little children. But Updike's powerful prose captures the irresistible magnetism that drives two married people headlong into love.

No book could have a more romantic title than Marry Me.

But it is Updike the sensuous moralist's bittersweet cautionary tale about the temptations that could ruin a marriage.

Jerry wants to marry Sally, and she wants him.

And when her husband, Richard, finds out, he does not stand in their way.

Instead he threatens to sue Jerry unless he marries her. He wants Jerry to pay for alienating her affections from him.

But Ruth is not letting go of Jerry.

She has broken up with Richard, an affair about which Jerry and Sally know nothing.

There are no innocents in this early 1960s extramarital romance except the little children. Whiny, sulky, helpless little brats who have to be fed and bathed and taken out to play while their parents think of separating.

Ruth tells Jerry he can't walk out on them — and there are moments when he also thinks he can't.

He is caught in a terrible bind, yearning for Sally, but his conscience won't let him go unless Ruth sets him free.

The scenes where they discuss breaking up and then sleep in the same bed or engage in other intimacies show how complex marriage can be.

But Updike is at his best in the early part when Jerry and Sally are rapturously in love, undetected by their spouses.

Here they are making love on a desolate beach in the afternoon.

Continue reading “Marry Me: Bittersweet Updike”

Try to read: John Updike

I just saw this John Updike interview with Charlie Rose.

Updike recalls he grew strawberries to pay his way through college and then became a copy boy for the Reading Eagle newspaper in Pennsylvania.

The copy boy had to carry "copy" — news and stories — from the newspaper's editorial room for the printers to typeset, he recalled in an essay. It was printed in The Times when he died in January this year.

He also advises writers in this video. "Try to read", he says with a smile."It's important to know what turns you on and what has been done in a broad way so you don't go over ground that has already been more than amply covered by the classics."