Wednesday, 4 February 2009
JOHN UPDIKE & SHORT FICTION
I've been thinking about John Updike's death and his stories over the past few days; I always enjoyed them, got quickly pulled in to them. I loved their honesty and rawness, especially when it came to men and women and the hurts they inflict on each other in relationships. (One of my major themes in To The World of Men, Welcome and in my next book, Nude).
I liked what Anne Enright said in The Observer on Sunday about the way he wrote about sex:
"I once spent about a year trying to think of a man who writes about sex properly, who isn't boasting. Then the name Updike came to me as someone who was writing something slightly boastful but real. All male authors seem to be either boasting or disgusted by sex; they write about it like it's the worst thing that could happen to anybody, whereas Updike took pleasure in it. He was helpless to the idea that the sentence should do something, and sometimes he gave into it too much, but the result is really lovely and somehow true about how we experience the world and sexual relations."
I haven't read Updike's novels but his short stories are hauntingly good; I wonder if shorter fiction was his favourite form? Alex Clark of Granta wasn't talking about him when she said the following, but it strikes me that it applies:
"[Short fiction writers] write short stories because they want to; because what they want to say and the way they want to say it is best accommodated and enhanced by writing over a shorter distance. It should be no more complicated than that."
Updike ruminated and internalised in his stories but, God, he did it in a way that sucked you in. I'm glad he was so creative (i.e. prolific); it means I have lots to catch up on.