January 27, 2009KR BlogUncategorized

John Updike (1932-2009)

“With Barthelme gone I suddenly got a glimpse of how disassembled and undirected and simply bereft I would feel if I were to learn suddenly through the Associated Press of Updike’s death. All I wanted, all I counted on, was Updike’s immortality: his open-ended stream of books, reviews, even poems, and especially responses to pert queries from Mademoiselle and The New York Times Book Review. I thought I remembered him saying recently in Esquire, in response to a survey question about popular fiction, that “in college I read what they told me and was much the better for it.” I wanted more of those monocellular living appearances. More awards-acceptance speeches! He was, I felt, the model of the twentieth-cenury American man of letters: for him to die would be for my generation’s personal connection with literature to die, and for us all to be confronted at last with the terrifying unmediated enormity of the cast-concrete university library, whose antitheft gates go click-click-click-click as we leave, dry laughter at how few books we can carry home with us.”

Nicholson Baker, U & I (Tao Lin’s microwreview of U & I in the style of Joe Brainard’s “I Remember.”)

“His scrupulous wrestle with the impalpable can be quite comic, but his basic point is serious: out of the books of others we sift a book of our own, wherein we read the lessons we need to hear.”

Updike, reviewing Baker’s book anonymously (follow Tyler’s link to Wyatt Mason’s sentences) in “Briefly Noted” (The New Yorker, May 13, 1991)

(George Saunders, Julian Barnes, Antonya Nelson et al remembering Updike at The New Yorker‘s Book Bench.)