Good Updike stuff on Charlie Rose last night, featuring Judith Jones, his editor at Knopf, David Remnick, his editor at the New Yorker, and Sam Tanenhaus from the New York Times Book Review. And that’s not all. On Monday, the Chuckster is going to play highlights from Updike’s many appearances on the show. Get ready to fall asleep on the sofa, then watch the end online Tuesday morning! Well, that’s what I’m probably going to be doing anyway.
They spent a great deal of time last night trying to refute the two biggest complaints I usually hear leveled at Updike, namely 1) that he was all style, no substance (or “all hat and no horse” as Remnick says, before Rose points out that the expression is actually “all hat and no cattle,” which brings to mind the amusing mental image of Charlie Rose and/or David Remnick in the general vicinity of cattle) and 2) that, as a writer at least, he was something of a misogynist, or a “literary phallocrat,” as David Foster Wallace once put it. If I was his attorney, I think I’d have a strong case against count 1, but I would urge him to plea out on count 2. Maybe have him cop to the lesser charge of aggrevated phallocentricity or something.
Anyway, few can spit out as many words as Updike could in a year, and hardly anyone can hang with him as a stylist, so the upshot is that there’s going to be a lot less quality writing in the world from here on out. A sad thing all the way around.
-Norm De Plume