John Updike died yesterday. There’s no shortage of fawning obits, but as it happens I was reading Florence King’s Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye yesterday, which includes this timely debunking inspired by her attempt to write about Updike for Lear’s magazine:
When Samuel Johnson was asked to comment on the plot of Cymbeline, he refused, saying, “It is impossible to criticize unresisting imbecility.”
I am at brain-death’s door. I can’t finish any of Updike’s books. I keep putting one down and going on to another, thinking it’ll be better, but it never is. His last one, Roger’s Version, is about a divinity professor and a computer expert who team up to prove the existence of God. Part of it is written in computerese and part in medieval Latin. The lit. crit. crowd called it “a novel of ideas.” How can they tell?
For the past month I’ve been hoping that Lear’s would self-destruct so I wouldn’t have to read John Updike. Last week while deep-frying softshell crabs I got the oil too hot and the pan ignited. It was a Freudian slip — I was trying to burn the house down so I wouldn’t have to read John Updike.
I’d rather be a human mine sweeper in the Strait of Hormuz than read John Updike. I’d rather run away and join the ladies auxiliary of the French Foreign Legion than read John Updike. Tell the Lear’s lady I’m dead — it’s more or less true.
There’s much more, so track down a copy of Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye.