Updike’s Early Stories

Updike practises, one might say, a sensualist’s pantheism, citing the world into a fuller being. His stories are plush with phrasing and, in them, the nap of the felt world made suddenly and wonderfully palpable. Who else would notice the ‘clean, sad scent of linoleum’, or the ‘hoarse olfactory shout’ of a football stadium, or the ‘sizzle of a defective neon-sign connection’? Who else would have a character opens a door on a summer’s day, to find that the ‘sunlight falls flat at his feet like a penitent’?

Updike’s genius for image-making, however, is his curse as well as his blessing. At times, his lust for detail thickens into the vulgar. In particular, Updike has never been able to leave his genitals alone. A penis cannot be a penis, it must be ‘that superadded, boneless bit of him, that monkeyish footnote to the godlike thorax’. Testicles must be ‘like dropped fruit, slowly rotting’, the vulva a ‘sacred several-lipped gateway’.

At moments like these – and there are many of them – we see Updike succumb to the danger which threatens a writer so improbably able at his job: tanked up on success, facility begins to vandalise felicity.

Robert Macfarlane, in The Observer

Read Updike’s first story on-line

[x]#372 fan zondag 25 januari 2004 @ 11:32:34