THE CRITIC AND REVIEWER
Updike's relentless productivity as a critic of other writers' productions as well as his own is acknowledged by everyone including himself. In an interview he confessed with perhaps the least hint of a boast that "I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles if I had to." 1 By way of apologizing for such fecundity or promiscuity, he allowed himself in a foreword to his second collection, Picked-Up Pieces ( 1975), to hope "for the sakes of artistic purity and paper conservation, that ten years from now the pieces to be picked up will make a smaller heap." It was not to be, since that collection when it came ( Hugging the Shore, 1983) had almost doubled in size, amounting to 919 pages. Its successor, Odd Jobs ( 1991), also, miraculously, came in at exactly 919 pages, and a fifth, equally large collection, More Matter, has recently appeared. As with comparably prolific writers — Joyce Carol Oates, Anthony Burgess, A. N. Wilson — such facility inspires skepticism and distrust in the reader who would believe that, somehow, things should come harder than they do for Updike. "Has the son of a bitch ever had one unpublished thought?" asks the annoyed, anonymous voice quoted by David Foster Wallace in that previously mentioned putdown of his elder.
How did all this offense against artistic purity and the conservation of paper come about? Temperament and inclination must be acknowledged, of course, and when Martin Amis wittily reviewed