How can we navigate through the information landscape that is only
beginning to come into view? The question is more urgent than ever
following the recent settlement between Google and the authors and
publishers who were suing it for alleged breach of copyright. For the
last four years, Google has been digitizing millions of books,
including many covered by copyright, from the collections of major
research libraries, and making the texts searchable online. The authors
and publishers objected that digitizing constituted a violation of
their copyrights. After lengthy negotiations, the plaintiffs and Google
agreed on a settlement, which will have a profound effect on the way
books reach readers for the foreseeable future. What will that future
The attempt to find new words for a new horror aptly summarizes the past
sixty years of Jewish fiction, and is the obverse of the stark,
unapproachable purity of Untitled by Anonymous, or of T.W.
Adorno, who declared in 1949 that "to write poetry after Auschwitz is
barbaric." Nearly every modern Jewish writer of merit has contested
Adorno’s judgment. And once poetry is fair game, is commerce ever far
behind? On a recent visit to the local multiplex–to see a popular
mainstream entertainment about the death of God, no less–I counted four
movie trailers about the Nazis. One was a vigilante movie, another a spy
thriller, the next a May-December romance, the last a sentimental
product for children.
Gladwell is fond of quirky factors. The unexpectedness of his
explanations often disguises their banality or their error. In his new
book, he is particularly interested in examining the amount of time
that must be spent honing a skill or a craft, although his larger point
is that society frequently plays a role in providing people with the
opportunity to do so. "The idea that excellence at performing a complex
task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and
again in studies of expertise," Gladwell reports. (I hope those studies
did not cost too much.) After quoting a psychologist who said that
Mozart spent ten years composing before producing a masterpiece,
Gladwell goes a-quantifying: "And what’s ten years? Well, it’s roughly
how long it takes to put in ten thousand hours of hard practice. Ten
thousand hours is the magic number of greatness."
The New Yorker: Remembering Updike
The New York Times: John Updike, Author, Dies at 76:
His settings ranged from the court of ”Hamlet” to postcolonial Africa, but his literary home was the American suburb, the great new territory of mid-century fiction.
Updike, que residió en Beverly Farms, Massachusetts (EE UU), fue un autor tremendamente prolífico:
escribió más de 50 libros (unas 25 novelas) en una carrera que abarca
desde la postrimerías de la Segunda Guerra Mundial a la actualidad.
Compaginaba la escritura de ficción (novelas y cuentos) con la de
críticas y ensayos. Su producción novelística fue la que le situó en un
lugar destacado de la literatura estadounidense contemporánea, junto a
grandes firmas como Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Don DeLillo y Kurt
Vonnegut, entre otros.
In a writing career that began in the early 1950s at the New Yorker magazine, and kept on going like a literary powerhouse until the very end, Updike conjured up more than 50 books and explored virtually every form open to him. On top of a steady stream of essays, literary criticism and short stories, in addition to the more than 20 novels, beyond the poetry, there was a play Buchanan Dying and a memoir Self- Consciousness.
Wall Street Journal: John Updike, In His Own Words:
WSJ: What about William Gaddis, who some believe is the father of the modern novel, and Stephen King?
Mr. Updike: I’m not sure about William Gaddis’s
"The Recognitions," which doesn’t have enough joy in it. For a book to
last it should be joyful. Theodore Dreiser has a sense of joy. It’s
crushing but he loved the world. I’ve never read much Stephen King. I
admire his diligence, but it’s not my kind of reading.
Updike is commonly regarded as the poet laureate of the suburbs, but that’s not really accurate. Yes, he evoked a certain middle-class domestic culture at the precise moment (the 1960s and 1970s) that it was exploding; without him, there’d be no Rick Moody, no Ethan Canin — to name just two.
But more than suburban life, Updike was really an explorer of consciousness, of the mental drama; this is why Wallace derided him as a solipsist. Even his most celebrated works, the Rabbit novels, are less about domestic life than they are sagas of one man — confused, guilt-ridden, tormented by his own not-fully-thought-out choices — struggling to make sense of himself. For Updike, it didn’t happen unless he’d thought it through, reflected on it. If that, at times, could keep us at a distance, it was the clearest expression of who he was.
Sentences: Updike the Critic:
As someone who writes for a living about books, I’ve always been astonished by Updike’s capacities as a critic. In conversation on this topic, young critics (those who take tea with the young poets mentioned above) have often questioned the sincerity of my appreciation of Updike’s literary essays. They always seem quick to say “Oh yeah, great stuff. Who could disagree with his appraisal of Fear of Flying as a ‘loveable, delicious novel….’” Martin Amis, a great admirer of Updike’s, mind, has an essay in this mode that takes the dismissive tone and at least makes an argument out of it. “Kind to stragglers and also-rans, to well-meaning duds and worthies, and correspondingly cautious in his praise of acknowledged stars and masters, Updike’s view of twentieth-century literature is a leveling one.” Yes and no. Certainly there are examples of Updike’s grading on a generous curve. But here’s the thing: if you sat down and wrote 5,000 pages of book reviews in your lifetime—well over a million words, for that’s the tally in Updike’s case—I’m pretty sure there’d be a conspicuous failing or two.
Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit is Rich (1981), Rabbit at Rest (1990)
The Rabbit series, along with Couples, is widely held to be Updike’s best work and chronicles the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom from a directionless 26-year-old former basketball star to directionless car dealer to a grossly overweight blob, played out against a background of contemporary America and – naturally – a great deal of sex and disappointment. At times the books can feel as if they are trying too hard to be the Great American novel – there’s only so much name-checking of "important" events, such as Vietnam, the oil crisis, Aids etc most readers can take – and the writing is uneven (skip Rabbit Redux if you’re pushed), but Angstrom is one of the great characters in late-20th-century fiction and Updike fully deserved the Pulitzer prizes he won for Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest. In 2001, he also wrote Rabbit Remembered, a novella about Rabbit’s daughter, but that really is only one for the truly dedicated.