27 January 2009

who will do it again.

When I went to the nurse practitioner to see about my sleeping problem, she banned me from reading history before bed and prescribed fiction reading. It didn't take long, suddenly reintroduced to the grand world of literature, to get into the works of John Updike (some had compared his book Couples to Revolutionary Road. I like them both for very different reasons). In my opinion, Updike is the perfect writer to read before bed. From what I've read of his work, he seldom leaves you with cliff hangers or chapters that you just have to finish-- in some of his books he hardly even uses chapters. Instead his long, meandering, paragraphs, rich with lyrical imagery just beg to be closed at any time. I like the story topics-- my selections have been his works about relationships in the post-war suburbs-- and the way he sells the comedy of people feeling trapped. I like how he gets into the trouble regular people got into when confronted with sexual revolution and feminism. I have found that I can just read and read John Updike.

So I was a mite sad when I found out that he died today. One of his poems emerged over the course of the coverage that made me a little bleary eyed, not because John Updike has passed but because it really gets at what loss is and what each person in our lives brings to the table.

Perfection Wasted

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market --
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories
packed in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren't the same.


Matt Newport said...

Brilliant. The irreplaceability of ones own Legend. Please recommend a title or two that would be a good start for an Updike virgin. Cheers.

Neighbor said...

Same goes for me... I'm getting back into this "recreational reading" again as I'm no longer in school and forced to read such odd books. I pretty much stay with dorky science related books (go figure). I need something new. And it's getting harder and harder to find Kathy Reichs books at the library (think Bones) and I'm too poor to buy. :P

melanie said...

I think _A Month of Sundays_ is a good place to start, and would then read _Couples_ or _Witches of Eastwick_. I'm goinog to start reading the Rabbit series books (COTGB book club, anyone?); I think he won a Pulitzer or two for those. _Memories of the Ford Administration_ was a rough slog for me, in spite of its main character being a historian.