Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Updike - a rich chronicle

There is a passage in 'The Coup' that describes the immolation of an American aid worker by an African tribe. As he dances atop a small mountain of boxes of US-made breakfast cereal and the flames lick upwards, uncomprehendingly he continues to extol the nutritional benefits of his pyre. Updike evokes the smell of his teenage bedroom, overlaid with scents of plastic model aircraft glue, his college-found vocation and his open, unselfish desire to help the third world. It is a quite masterful piece of writing, not without a dark humour, that sticks in the mind.

Updike chronicled with exquisite skill the paradoxes of being American. Through many presidential terms, and momentous changes in American society, his canon of work weaves a thread of acutely perceptive observation and understanding. If you are not already a fan, I commend him to you.

1 comment:

crackers said...

I enjoyed 'The Coup' knowing a little of 'The Heart of Darkness' from my own travels.

I read JU in the 60's but gave up when I turned to non fiction.

However I read his 'Golf Dreams' which chronicles his rather feeble efforts to get to grips with the game's maddening absurdity.

'No one has ever written better about the mental challenge of the game' NY Times Review.

Strangely, in my view, the DT obituary made no reference to his hobby.