Updike: America's Man of Letters

By William H. Pritchard | Go to book overview

ELEVEN
POST-RABBIT EFFECTS

This closing account of Updike's recent, post-Rabbit fiction aims to be tentative and inconclusive. After all, the writer shows no signs of abating his astonishing productivity, and to label, as does my chapter title, his work in the 1990s as "effects" may be merely glib. Surely it doesn't suggest how much creative life is to be found in the four novels, as well as the "quasi-novel" Bech at Bay ( 1998) and the short fiction contained in The Afterlife ( 1994) — to say nothing further of other nineties publications such as Collected Poems ( 1993) and the two massive collections of essays and criticism, Odd Jobs ( 1991) and More Matter ( 1999). But there is another reason, aside from recent additions to the rapidly increasing oeuvre, for abstaining from judgments etched in stone about work that has appeared, as it were, only yesterday. The reviewer of the individual volumes as they appear is called upon to judge them as firmly and unambiguously as possible; a writer completing an account of a literary career may occupy himself with describing its most recent trajectory and trying to make imaginative sense of it in relation to what came before. (I will say nothing here about the often-amusing Bech at Bay, nor about Brazil, published in 1994 — in my judgment his least successful, certainly least humorous novel.) 1

What immediately preceded these books are the stocktaking memoirs, Self-Consciousness, and the last and best of the Rabbit books. As noted previously, Updike has spoken of "packing my bag

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Updike: America's Man of Letters
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chronology xi
  • Intorduction the Man of Letters 1
  • One - First Fruits 17
  • Two - The Novelist Takes off 45
  • Three - The Pennsylvania Thing 63
  • Four - Adultery and Its Consequences 117
  • Five - Impersonations of Men in Trouble (1) 145
  • Six - Impersonations of Men in Trouble (ii) 169
  • Seven - Extravagant Flctions 195
  • Eight - The Critic and Reviewer 229
  • Nine - Poet, Memoirist 253
  • Ten - Rabbit Retired 277
  • Eleven - Post-Rabbit Effects 301
  • Notes 333
  • Bibliography 339
  • Index 343
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