I had never read Updike before. He isn't force-fed to us in public school like Salinger or Fitzgerald. It was chic to snub the canon and all its modern masters in the multi-cultural daze of college. I've always thumbed past his lauded columns in the The New Yorker
, and until this year, I remained skeptical of Updike for no other reason than he was still alive. How could a man regarded as one of the greatest American writers still pump out stories like artillery shells? After his death, the coast felt clear to make an honest assessment of Updike's last collection of short stories. After reading the first story in this collection, I remembered something Martin Amis wrote about Updike: "having read him once, you admit to yourself, almost with a sigh that you will have to read everything he writes."
Amis is absolutely right.
The title of this collection evokes...
Beyond the Book
"I'd like to offer assurances that your reviewer is not one of these spleen-venting, spittle-spattering Updike-haters one encounters among literary readers under 40. The fact is that I am probably classifiable as one of very few actual sub-40 Updike fans."
This quote comes from an essay by David Foster Wallace, the upstart author of the late 90's, published in The New York Observer
in 1997. Though Wallace's essay on Updike is not "spleen-venting" it is absolutely scalding and is the sacred document of the Anti-Updike faction on college campuses. It's considered the rallying cry that spurred the literary backlash against The Great White Male. According to Wallace, Updike was the chronicler and the voice of "the most...