Monday, October 26, 2009

First Updike

The Complete and Total Loser read his first John Updike novel earlier this fall.
He had preferred John Cheever to Updike but the novel he read floored him by being so good.
The novel was "Couples," which Updike published in 1968 and is about a group of couples in a New England town near Boston in 1963.
The Loser has trouble following plots and keeping track of who's who and, while "Couples" is not a hard read despite its eloquent sentences, he had to make a list of who was married to whom a third of the way into the book. He also began rereading the book less than half way through it. This underlines his well-known stupidity: he was rereading a book he hadn't even read yet.
Updike was a poet as well as a novelist, essayist and critic, and it shows on every page. The Loser's slack jaw would drop open regularly when reading things like this:
This frightened him, and altered the tone of his body. She felt this and opened her eyes; their Coke-bottle green was flecked with wilt. Her pupils in the sun were as small as the core of a pencil.
couple on train"The tone of his body," "flecked with wilt," "as small as the core of a pencil." That's in three sentences in a 458-page novel, and he maintains it throughout.
The book is largely about adultery and has many racy yet un-pornographic parts. The Loser, who has not been with a woman in this century, appreciated the Updike makes you feel as if you've spent time with the characters in "Couples."

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