Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Updike

John Updike was a particularly important author to me in my last year or so of high school and first few years of college.  I identified to some extent--another small town Pennsylvania boy (the subject of these early stories as well as a biographical fact), and he was writing for outlets I aspired to: the New Yorker magazine, and Knopf book publisher.

Though our enthusiasms may fade, it's interesting to note their lasting effects.  Since I've been thinking and writing about those years, I've revisited some of the early Updike short stories I first read, and I noted particularly a couple of his comments in his Paris Review interview.  aI'm sure I came upon the first of them for the first time in this interview, and it became formative.  The second is more in the nature of consolation, a retroactive justification for a different personal history than I was looking for.

"When I write, I aim my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas.  I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teen-aged boy finding them, and having them speak to him.  The reviews, the stacks in Brentano's, are just hurdles to get over, to place the books on that shelf."

"No, I always wanted to draw or write for a living...I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles if I had to...The distinction between a thing well done and a thing done ill obtains everywhere..."