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Monday, April 23, 2018

Returning To Another Earlier Love


The post above about re-kindling a long ago infatuation with author John Irving was published seven years ago today. I noticed this only because recently finishing "The Centaur" (1963) reminded me how long it had been since I'd last read a novel by John Updike, another giant who dominated my reading life for many years. Which author that you enjoyed a great deal earlier in life have you recently returned to? How was it returning? What, if anything, shifted in your view of the writer?

Updike's facility with words, coupled with an uncanny skill to capture the quotidian, still floors me. "Girls, rosy-cheeked, glad, motley and mostly ill-made, like vases turned by a preoccupied potter, are embedded, plaid-swaddled, in the hot push." And another thing that drew me to him many years ago - his refusal to pander to readers - is in ample supply in this early novel. All mythological references are delivered without flourish. Updike assumes either you are familiar with the figures he cites or will take the time to educate yourself if you want to better understand his subtext. I was pleased my book group had folks who could coach me about this piece of the novel, given my own limited education in mythology.

If you're new to Updike - even though it's more than twice as long as "The Centaur" - I'd suggest first tackling "In The Beauty Of The Lilies" (1996). Or, try one of the Rabbit novels ("Rabbit Redux" is my favorite of those four, although I'm in the distinct minority there). Updike at his most accessible? Hard to go wrong with "The Witches Of Eastwick" (1984), although getting Nicholson's hammy mug out of your head could be difficult when reading that. I read the book before the film was released and made a brilliant alternate casting choice for Darryl Van Horne - Christopher Plummer. Too bad no one consulted me.

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