… would have been 82 today (he died in 2009).
“A novelist, short-story writer, poet and critic, Updike is, to borrow a phrase he has used about others,’one of the chief glories of postwar American literature.’” The New York Times
In 2004 Updike wrote an essay about Thoreau’s Walden.
In a time of informational overload, of clamorously inane and ubiquitous electronic entertainment, and of a fraught, globally challenged, ever more demanding workplace, the urge to build a cabin in the woods and thus reform, simplify, and cleanse one’s life – “to front”, in Thoreau’s ringing verb, “only the essential facts of life” – remains strong. The holiday industry, so-called, thrives on it, and camper sales, and the weekend recourse to second homes in the northern forests or the western mountains, where the pollutions of industry and commerce are relatively light. “Simplify, simplify,” Walden advises, and we try, even though a 21st-century attainment of a rustic, elemental simplicity entails considerable complications of budget and transport.
In 1967 Updike was interviewed by The Paris Review.
Updike is a fluent talker, but obviously not a man who expects talk to bridge the distance between others and his inner life. Therefore, the final stage of this interview was his revision of the spoken comments to bring them into line with the style of his written answers. The result is a fabricated interview—in its modest way, a work of art, and thus appropriate to a man who believes that only art can track the nuances of experience.