Tuesday, June 22, 2010

No Proust and Joyce

Sam Tanenhaus, writing in yesterday's New York Times about an archive
John Updike assembled as a personal record of his life and times:

"We do not need men like Proust and Joyce; men like this are a luxury,
an added fillip that an abundant culture can produce only after the
more basic literary need has been filled," Updike wrote to his parents
in 1951, when he was 19. "This age needs rather men like Shakespeare,
or Milton, or Pope; men who are filled with the strength of their
cultures and do not transcend the limits of their age, but, working
within the times, bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory. We
need great artists who are willing to accept restrictions, and who
love their environments with such vitality that they can produce an
epic out of the Protestant ethic" — a prescient formulation of what he
would later achieve in the Rabbit novels and his Pennsylvania short
stories. "Whatever the many failings of my work," he concluded, "let
it stand as a manifesto of my love for the time in which I was born."

Tanenhaus' article lives here: