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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Thus the world, like a jaded coquette, spurns our attempts to give ourselves to her wholly.



John Updike died this week at the age of 76. I'm far from an expert on his canon, but I would consider him one of my favorite authors. What do I like about Updike? His critics say that he wrote eloquently about nothing at all, but I would say the opposite was true. I think he could find the profound, the ugly & the beautiful in every day life & every day lives & could write about it in such a way that could illuminate the human condition. He took a workmanlike approach to writing, I remember hearing once that he went to an office everyday & wrote at least four pages. It's been a long time since I've ready any of his short stories, but I think I'll go back to them soon.

REQUIEM
By JOHN UPDIKE

It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
“Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise — depths unplumbable!”

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
“I thought he died a while ago.”

For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.

Endpoint & Other Poems

Ironically, I started reading Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie this week. Woody's style couldn't be farther away from Updike, but it's beautiful all the same. This passage made the hairs on my neck stand up straight when I read it on the plane heading home from Dallas:

"My eyes closed tight, quivering till they exploded like the rain when the lightning dumped a truckload of thunder down along the train. I was whirling & floating & hugging the little runt around the belly, & my brain felt like a pot of hot lead bubbling over a flame. Who's all of these crazy men down there howling out at each other like hyenas? Are these men? Who am I? How come them here? How the hell come me here? What am I supposed to do here?

My ear flat against the tin roof soaked up some music & singing coming from down inside of the car:

This train don't carry no rustlers,
whores, pimps, or side street hustlers;
This train is bound for glory,
This train.

Can I remember? Remember back to where I was this morning? St Paul. Yes. The morning before? Bismarck, North Dakota. And the morning before that? Miles City, Montana. Weeks ago I was a piano player in Seattle.

Who's this kid? Where's he from & where's he headed for? Will he be me when he grows up? Was I like him when I was just his size? Let me remember. Let me go back. Let me get up & walk back down the road I come. This old hard rambling & hard graveling. This old chuck-luck traveling. My head ain't working right.

Where was I
Where in the hell was I?
Where was I when I was a kid? Just as far, far, far back, on back, as I can remember?
Strike, lightning, strike!
Strike, goddam you, strike!
There's lots of folks that you cain't hurt!
Strike, lightning!
See if I care!
Roar & rumble, twist & turn, the sky ain't never as crazy as the world.
Bound for glory? This train? Ha!
I wonder just where in the hell we're bound.
Rain on, little rain, rain on!
Blow on, little wind, keep blowin'!
Cause them guys is a singin' that this train is bound for glory, an' I'm gonna hug her breast till I find out where she's bound."

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

The Roving Blade-Bob Dylan, 2000

Pretty Peggy-O-Bob Dylan



She Came Along to Me-Billy Bragg, Mermaid Ave Vol I



"the women are equal & may be ahead of the men"

Another Man Done Gone-Wilco



December 1999-Jolie Holland, Catalpa

Happy reading, friends...

andrew

2 comments:

Ethelapple said...

I really liked the whole Rabbit series....read them during college.

Here's a funny quote from Wikipedia about Updike:
"In an episode of the animated series The Simpsons, "Insane Clown Poppy", John Updike is the ghost writer of a book that Krusty the Clown is promoting. The book's title is "Your Shoe's Too Big To Kickbox God," a 20-page book written entirely by John Updike as a money-making scam.

I like the title of that book...

Joyce said...

You could fit in a thimble the things I know of Mr. Updike, but the television had some interesting biographical clips about him last night. It said after his divorce, he married himself.

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...