Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike

I was sad to see that John Updike died yesterday. I had my Updike period, when I was living on Long Island, going to graduate school at Stony Brook. I had to take a semester off for a back surgery, and one of the first books I read during my recovery was a large edition of Updike stories, 600 or so pages, a thick paperback with a red cover. It's still around here somewhere. It appealed to me because I thought that was how adults were supposed to live, that I would be leaving graduate school in two years or so and and taking a train to the City like so many of Updike's characters, carrying a briefcase and an umbrella, and coming home and drinking a slow bourbon or two and feeling generally...absolutely, fucking lost.

I don't remember its title, but the story I remember the most is about this guy who ventured around his upper-middle-class neighborhood swimming through all the pools in all the backyards, one after the other. That is what adventure had come to mean to him. That was scary.

I think you can only get Updike it you once lived somewhere within 40-80 miles of NYC and at least a few times took a train there, from Connecticut or Long Island or New Jersey. That was the life of his characters, on the train, waiting for the train, waiting to be picked up from the train, in their London Fog jacket (yes, I have one), the trees bare and the scene cold, or maybe the trees hot and breezy, but no one ever all that happy, every man looking to bang every wife who pulled up in front of every train station to pick up her husband, but of course it was all just fantasy.

I think John Updike always wanted to be Robert Frost, but knew he could never pull it off. I don't know who Robert Frost wanted to be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, i just recently discovered John Updike... I haven't fallen in love with all of his work yet, but i'm warming up to his candid writing style;

his passing is a sad loss indeed