Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike, RIP

John Updike passed away today.

I haven't read any of his stuff. I'm afraid to. When I was in 6th grade, Updike was doing convocation at Lawrence University, located mere blocks from my elementary school, so the talented and gifted teacher walked us all down to hear him speak. He read a piece in 2nd person, about a middle aged man on a road trip with his family and the cute waitress when they stop for dinner. Since that day, I have NEVER struggled with what 2nd person narrative is.

He also read from one of the Rabbit books (which, at the time, I confused with Watership Down, so I was momentarily confused when he started reading not about Rabbits on a ship, but about neighbors having sex on a pile of laundry.) Let's just say that scene he read to us had a great effect on a bunch of socially awkward 6th graders. It was also an interesting window into the odd world of adults. The adult books I read at the time (and I did read quite a few) didn't deal with the angst of middle age and suburbia. I wasn't entirely convinced that adults had feelings and personal lives at that point.

Hearing Updike read that one scene changed my life in subtle ways, and is an event that has stuck with me greatly, hence my desire, but also great fear, to read the Rabbit books for myself. What if they're not as good as I remember? What if they won't hold the same impact now that I am an adult? Should they just stay in my memory in that huge chapel with streaming sunlight?


Sean said...

Well, start with some short works ... might I suggest a pair of poems and a short story at a relative's blog? And if you don't want to commit to the whole Rabbit saga, you can get a lot of mileage from his various short story collections. I'd recommend starting on the Rabbit books with Dan in tow if/when kids enter the picture.

Jennie said...

tee hee. I read your post even before you commented.

I'm just afraid that it won't live up to what I've built up in my mind, and that would just crush me.