Reader on Updike

In response to one of Monday’s posts, a reader who wishes to remain anonymous directs me to a comment of Updike’s that appears in The Paris Review‘s DNA of Literature interview (page 22):

The other day I got a long, brilliant letter from a man at Wesleyan describing the book in terms of the Don Juan legend, pointing out numerous illuminating analogies. He thinks that Don Juans, historically, appear in the imperialist countries just as the tide turns: the classic Don Juan appears in Spain just as Spain has lost the Netherlands, and so Piet’s activity somehow coincides with our frustration in Vietnam. All this is news to me, but, once said, it sounds right. I’ll have to read the letter again. It elicited for me certain basic harmonies, certain congruences with prototypes in the Western consciousness that I’m happy to accept.

The quote struck the reader as funny, he says,

for all the reasons the people who loathe Updike (my feelings are deeply mixed) loathe him: a facile grip of history that takes itself for profound, combined with a blasé misogyny. It also struck me as the occasion for a parody: the situation in Iraq worsens and promiscuous sex in America rises proportionally.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.