Wednesday, 11 April 2012

John Updike

Toward the End of Time, Of the Farm, and Rabbit is Rich

Last year I read Couples. My mum started to read it, didn't like it, and passed it on to me. I read it and immediately began to rave about it, prompting my mum to try it again. She too loved it the second time around, as did everyone else that I recommended it to. Since then, I have read Terrorist, Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux and a wide variety of his short story collections. In the pile of books beside my bed, two wait to be started (Toward the End of Time and Marry Me), and Rabbit is Rich, the third in the Rabbit series, already looks well worn and has a bookmark in it (which rather randomly consists of a recipe for a Pomegranate Drop cocktail!): I have taken to reading a little at a time, so as to enjoy it for longer, an it has already accompanied me on a myriad of journeys. I'm not entirely sure what it is that I love about Updike's writing. Perhaps it is his skill at creating sentences that are thick with meaning, and which have the power to transport you straight into whatever situation he is describing. Even when Updike describes the most menial of tasks or the most mundane situation, he makes it beautiful. I would strongly recommend that anyone read one of his novels, or at least a short story. If you appreciate good writing, Updike is for you.

'He begins to trespass. The hedgerow that has swallowed the stone wall is less leafy, he is less hidden. A cool small wind slips through the tangled black gum and wild cherry and licks his hands. Poison ivy leaves have turned, a Mercurochrome red, some of them half-dyed as if dipped. As he ventures down through the old orchard, a step at a time, he treads on fallen apples lying thick in the grass grown to hay. Mustn't turn an ankle, lie up here and rot as well.' (Rabbit is Rich)

'I stood at the window looking towards the near woods. Thunder muttered from beyond where the owl had hooted. In my mother's ragged flower garden the phlox was being battered, letting white coins fall, and in the weedy caves at the feet of the passé hollyhocks hung small orange papery constructs, lantern-shaped, that I had not seen in any garden since leaving Pennsylvania...This window, giving on the most lonely side of the house, where the grass was softest and where Peggy had lain, bore on its sill a toy metropolis of cereal and dogfood and birdseed boxes, whose city gates were formed by an unused salt-and-pepper set of aqua ceramic I had sent from Cambridge fifteen years ago.' (Of the Farm)

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