Sunday, September 07, 2008

Due Considerations

John Updike is one of my very favorite writers and I am specially indebted to Hugging The Shore for introducing me to some of the best books I've read. With Updike's guidance on traversing a crowded (and to me, mostly unfamiliar) literary landscape, I no longer felt limited by the narrow confines of my small town existence. Each time, I read a book or an author recommended by Updike, the more I came to depend on his judgment.

So, it was with a great deal of anticipation that I picked up Due Considerations. To say the least, I was hoping to be introduced again to a fresh crop of literary talent from around the world, writers and works Updike had not been able to give consideration to before. But more than that I was hoping to hear his own thoughts about anything he thought worthy of consideration.

While his reviews are as detailed, informative and insightful as they have always been, often he comes across as a little too kind to be critical or perhaps he has deliberately chosen to comment on works that he finds easy to lavish praise upon. Whatever, the case, I found myself skimming through the entire section titled "Considering Books" and agreeing with NYT reviewer Christopher Hitchens when he says:
Fair-mindedness here threatens to decline into something completely passive, neutral and inert.

I must be one of those readers who loved every line of what Updike had to say about the literary output of others but have really been waiting for him to share more of himself with his readers.

In his essay "On Literary Biographies" Updike writes about the readers of such works :

We read, those of us who do, literary biographies for a variety of reasons, of which the first and perhaps the most note-worthy is the desire to prolong and extend our intimacy with the author - to partake again, from another angle, of the joys we have experienced within the author's oeuvre, in the presence of a voice and mind we have come to love.

That describes precisely why I would have loved to hear more about Updike in his own words about himself. I missed that in Due Considerations - he just has not considered himself nearly enough. I would love a book devoted entirely to Personal Considerations which forms only a small section of this one.

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