The purpose of literary criticism, in my mind, is that it provides a “look, did you see this?” or “what about this bit here?” kind of guide for lesser readers such as myself. It helps me find the best bits of a book (see Lucinda’s opening thoughts on Revolutionary Road). Good criticism helps me verbalize my arguments for why, exactly, I loathed or loved a particular piece of fiction. I think this is why I’m going to miss John Updike.
I haven’t read any of John Updike’s fiction, excepting the short story “A&P” and its unforgettable ice cream scoops. But I have read several of his thoughtful reviews in The New Yorker, which led me to read several additional pieces from his recent Due Considerations. Through such sources, he’s helped me to find and appreciate innumerable pieces of fiction, and therefore has had an outsized influence on my reading life.
I can’t get past the “national treasure” aspect of John Updike. He was prolific while maintaining an astoshingly consistent high quality of work. He was intelligent but generally soft spoken, and he valued quiet pursuits like golf – pursuits at odds with the stereotype of the spirited artist. He is an unexcludable part of 20th century America, a writer’s writer, a writer’s reader, and a reader’s writer. I’ll miss him and the promise of more, which is silly given that I’ve never met the man.
Anyways, here are a few bookmarked sites for you to enjoy. Let me know if the link fails. I haven’t tried to share my bookmarks yet.