James Wolcott's outstanding (and hilarious) review of the latest Updike is as superb an example of Snark as Art as we've seen. Enjoy it. Especially the closing line. Heaven knows, we did.
John Updike’s unfailing geniality and fluent industry appear to get on a fair number of nerves, of which he’s slyly aware. (Is there anything he isn’t slyly aware of? That foxy grin conceals volumes.) When Updike was but a sprig, apprenticing at the New Yorker and carving out a little piece of Pennsylvania as his literary duchy, his gleaming facility was found suspect by some detractors, its satin finish the imposture of a fair-haired boy out to impress his elders with the fine flick of his exquisite perceptions and deflective modesty. ‘The New Yorker and John Updike are both deeply immersed in the image of man as trivia,’ Alfred Chester wrote when panning Updike’s short story collection Pigeon Feathers. ‘Reading Updike, like reading the New Yorker, gives one the impression that the pages would turn to ash at the mere suggestion that life was other than a negative-positive mosquito buzzing in the ear of a total vacuum.’ Where Norman Mailer set out to bend the future with his telepathic powers and the Beats sought to hot-wire the American psyche (at the risk of frying their own circuits), Updike wrote as if he were doing fine draftsmanship under a cone of light, honouring creation and the American plenty. He was the ideal son of a platonic union between John Cheever and J.D. Salinger, with Nabokov attending the christening as fairy godfather. Apparent lack of inner struggle and purring efficiency made it possible to take him for granted. ‘No one has ever sat around worrying about Updike, the way one apparently worried about Wolfe and Fitzgerald and Hemingway, as if they were all soloing the Atlantic with each book, to see whether he’s lost his touch or his nerve or his fastball,’ Wilfrid Sheed wrote in Essays in Disguise. ‘We know damn well he’ll have his touch this time and next: we just want to see whether we like what he’s done with it.’
The book, incidentally, sounds dreadful.