Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Seasonally Inappropriate

Probably you heard: John Updike died.

I haven't read much of his stuff. I tried a couple of times to get through the first of his Rabbit books, and couldn't. I have a vague memory of liking Hugging the Shore. Terrorist was worth reading once, I thought -- I appear to have liked it better than most critics I saw.

Joel Achenbach has a pretty good post up about him, and nicely links to an article Updike wrote almost fifty years ago for The New Yorker. It may not be my favorite baseball story ever, but it's up there, and it is without a doubt my favorite baseball story title.

Yeah, I know: Probably a nameless staffer at The New Yorker came up with it. But I try not to think about things like that sometimes.


ArtSparker said...

Updike is so written in to the the American culture of the last 40 years. An English Teacher I had in High School read us "A Sense of Shelter" aloud. I remember the story quite vividly.

bjkeefe said...

I wish I had gotten more into Updike, and maybe someday I will. I don't know why I haven't yet -- so many people who I respect love his stuff.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel like the Long Ranger, Brendan. W.F. Buckley said once that he didn't have a large vocabulary but John Updike did. So I got an Updike book and gave it a try. I couldn't slog through it either. Well, I guess that's an over-statement. I did finish it and thought it was OK, but it didn't move me and didn't cause me to rush out and read another. The only vocabulary that seemed out of the ordinary was the scientific names of some plants.

On thing I do remember about it was an explanation of the Medusa myth. Medusa with all the writhing snakes for hair. Updike's take was that in ancient times if a man saw a woman's vagina with all the curly hair it supposedly looked like snakes and something happened to the man I can't remember exactly but maybe he turned to stone or the snakes ate him or something.

There is a little Mexican restaurant near my house named "Medusa's". Opened and run by Anglos so it isn't the owner's name or anything. I smile every time I go by that sign now. So I guess it's fair to say Updike made a lasting impression on me.

bjkeefe said...

Thanks for the word of support, TC. I don't feel particularly bad for not (yet?) having gotten into Updike, or more precisely, no more than I do whenever my general cultural illiteracy exposes itself, but did want to make clear to ArtSparker that I was aware that I sounded a little boorish in my original post.

Thanks also for the story about Medusa. It certainly sounds consistent with all the rest of the twisted notions tied up with women and their women parts that characterize the Abrahamic brands of faith.