Friday, January 27, 2012

Defending Updike ...

... John Updike: The bizarre and misguided assault on his reputation. - Slate Magazine. (Hat tips, Dave Lull and Ed Champion.)

... his immense talent is part of what people seemed to find suspect about him in the years before his death. Critics and writers hold the fact that he writes beautiful sentences against him, as if his writing is too well crafted, too flamboyantly, extravagantly good. James Wood wrote a decade ago, “He is a prose writer of great beauty, but that prose confronts one with the question of whether beauty is enough, and whether beauty always conveys what a novelist must convey.” Here one has to wonder about that special handbook of “What a Novelist Must Convey,” and the rules and regulations contained therein.


  1. That suspicion about "what a novelist must convey" is dead on target. It points directly at what I find suspicious about all of Woods' criticism, that there is a critical agenda behind, usually unspoken, about what literature "must" or "should" be. It's tempting to decide that Woods, like Harold Bloom, is essentially a critical moralist, and not at all a reviewer.

  2. Good point, Art. Prescriptive literary theories invariably exclude large chunks of literary reality.