John Updike

I was never a big fan of John Updike (I’ve always felt that his obsession with Baby Boomers and their yuppie navel-gazing with its attendant glorifying of narcissistic vices was terribly provincial), but upon hearing of his passing yesterday, I was reminded of the last thing I’ve read by him, the one thing I really liked.

In the English department workroom at UNLV, I often find copies of American Poetry Review on a table.  Taking one last month, I came across Updike’s “My Mother at Her Desk,” an appreciation both of his mother and the devotion to the plastic English language that they both loved.  In a short poem, he also makes it clear that their approaches to the Anglo tongue were different, but that she still helped him grow into the writer he became.  It was realistic, nuanced, sweet, and wonderful. 

Though not yet posted at APR’s website, here’s my favorite part:

Mine was to be the magic gift instead,

propelled to confidence by mother-love…

But hers was the purer ambition, hatched

of country childhood in the silences…

Maybe I should give some more of his stuff a look.