Thursday, January 29, 2009

My favorite piece about John Updike

John Irving offers a charming and offbeat story about getting John Updike's fan mail for years, and vice versa. It is the best thing I've read about Updike; the piece makes him seem engaging, human and less like the stuffed literary lion that places like the New York Times Book Review would make him out to be.

Come to think of it, the mainstream literary establishment often does this to writers. It can shape them into creepy icons. The worst was when Barnes & Noble used to have those green shopping bags with authors' heads on them... the Anne Tyler was the most sacrilegious (although the Mark Twain was pretty gross, and Emily Dickinson was just unspeakable), and I remember wondering why on earth someone as quiet and sensible as Anne Tyler would have agreed to such a thing. It's not that the art was technically poor -- in fact it was quite good -- but that if being an author meant finally getting one's oversized head caricatured on a book bag, then make me a bricklayer, please.

I'm sure there was an Updike head at some point (can anyone find an image?). So thank you, John Irving, for writing something memorable about the man.

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