Thursday, January 29, 2009

Updike's Version

John Updike's death hits so hard because nobody has written about it as perfectly and for as long as he has--and he died all the same. Apparently, writing protects you only from life. I liked the Rabbit books, or the Rabbit prose, but after reading Self-Consciousness and Roger's Version, I felt we knew Updike's terrible idea of what he'd be thinking, or half-thinking, as he accepted oblivion. He writes somewhere of a man who, on his death-bed, realizes that he's utterly lost interest in the laws of physics because facts, in fact, no longer mattered. In Rabbit At Rest, Harry Angstrom thinks, clenched, what the people on that Pan Am flight over Lockerbie were thinking as the plane fell to earth, and he catches himself and thinks, we are all falling toward the earth, just a little more slowly. If Updike can die, then who won't? Listen to this wonderful interview of Updike in 2000 by Chris Lydon, who is, thank God, still alive.