What is The New Yorker? I know it’s a great magazine and that it’s a tremendous source of pleasure in my life. But what exactly is it? This blog’s premise is that The New Yorker is a work of art, as worthy of comment and analysis as, say, Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Each week I review one or more aspects of the magazine’s latest issue. I suppose it’s possible to describe and analyze an entire issue, but I prefer to keep my reviews brief, and so I usually focus on just one or two pieces, to explore in each the signature style of its author. A piece by Nick Paumgarten is not like a piece by Dana Goodyear, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Friend, or Bilger for Lepore, or Collins for Khatchadourian. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Adam Begley's Brilliant "Updike"

This summer I’m reading Adam Begley’s Updike. I find it addictive. Begley’s biographical readings of Updike’s work are fascinating. For example, in his early chapters, he shows how immersed Updike was in his beloved Pennsylvania geography (Plowville, Shillington, Reading). He says of Updike’s great “The Happiest I’ve Been” (The New Yorker, January 3, 1959), “The farm, the town, the city – when an adult John Nordholm looks fondly back on the events of that night, Updike is taking us on a pilgrimage to all three of his holy sites.” Updike, in his “On Literary Biography” (Due Considerations, 2007), described George D. Painter’s masterly Marcel Proust as “a way of re-experiencing the novel [Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past], with a closeness, and a delight in seeing imagined details conjured back into real ones, that only this particular writer and his vast autobiographical masterpiece could provide.” Begley’s Updike works the same way in relation to Updike’s writing - mirroring the fiction back into reality. I’m enjoying it immensely.

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