… in 2019, Joyce Carol Oates came to Claremont McKenna where I was teaching and did an intimate Q&A. I brought up the writer John Updike; I was teaching a novel by him which was hard for students to read partly because he was sexist and backward in his racial attitudes, but even more because he described his worlds very, very densely. He would spend pages describing what a character sees driving down a country road at night. Students had a hard time even tracking it — they could, but they had to try. (Note: at least one of them, once he got the hang of it, loved it, which was great.)
I wanted to hear what Oates had to say about it because she’s of an older generation; she and Updike were peers. What she said was (paraphrasing again): yes, John could describe anything and everything but no one wants to read that any more, because (directly quoting) “people have moved on”/ I was really surprised by this. “Moved on”? We’ve moved on from the world we live in? How is that possible?