Tuesday, July 26, 2016

For some of us, books are intrinsic to our sense of personal identity

Higher Gossip: Essays and CriticismHigher Gossip: Essays and Criticism by John Updike
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Updike's essays are such a pleasure to read because his writing voice masters the combination of eloquence and amiability. When reading his work, I'm at once acutely aware of how elegant and refined the prose is yet also drawn to its effortless sense of approachability.

Higher Gossip is a compilation of Updike's thoughts on various subjects, such as people (ranging from Tiger Woods to Kurt Vonnegut), writing, and art. The book also contains the introductions, forewords, and afterwards that he wrote for numerous books. I did not read every essay, but Higher Gossip has been informative and all-encompassing in terms of covering the scope of his non-fiction.

Most of what this book has done, though, is inspire me a lot.

In "A Poetics of Book Reviewing," Updike gives advice that I wish I had read when I first started this book review blog: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/05...

In "The Game," Updike once again* shows me how comparisons should be executed by comparing golf to a woman for whom he has an unrequited love: "I fell in love with golf when I was twenty-five. [...] Sometimes I wish she and I had never met. She leads me on, but deep down I suspect--this is my secret--that I'm just not her type." Updike extends the metaphor to describe her "pretty green curves and "snug little sand traps," and the way she lets a long putt rattle in just when "you think she's turned her back on you forever." Golf is an intuitive old girl, a tease, an accountant.

*Fun fact: my favourite simile of all time comes from Updike's Self-Consciousness, in which he captures the intimidating nature of public speaking by describing how the microphone before him was "uptilted like the screened face of a miniature fencer."

Updike continues to inspire in "The End of Authorship," defending the future of books:
"Books traditionally have edges: some are rough-cut, some are smooth-cut, and a few, at least at my extravagant publishing house, are even top-stained. In the electronic anthill, where are the edges? The book revolution, which, from the Renaissance on, taught men and women to cherish and cultivate their individuality, threatens to end in a sparkling cloud of snippets.

So, booksellers, defend your lonely forts. Keep your edges dry. Your edges are our edges. For some of us, books are intrinsic to our sense of personal identity."
All in all, vicariously gossiping with Updike through his numerous essays has indeed been wonderful. Until next time!

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