Monday, July 12, 2010

Did This Man Ever Have An Unpublished (Happy) Thought?

So we meet again, John Updike. You've lured me into your underground lair and now you've got me tied up, and I'm being lowered into a vat of hot acid that somehow contains live, highly carnivorous alligators. Within minutes, you will press the button that will destroy all of New York City, and it appears there's nothing I can do about it. Nothing at all. You cackle maniacally as I squirm to break free of my fibrous bonds...

Actually, that's not at all what's going on. What's really going on is you've been dead for a little while and have left behind an intimidating literary legacy and I'm just some schlub who's blogging about you (or at you, as the case may be). You look very young in this picture, and pensive. It's hard to believe that you were once the same age as the young girls whose luscious, shadow-dappled thighs you grabbed greedily with your former-high-school-basketball-star-hands in about 98% of your fiction. (Please don't tell Gerard Manley Hopkins that I'm using the word "dappled" in this context. He'd be upset.) There is some New-Englandy clapboard behind your head, and it emphasizes the J. Crew-itude of your sweater. You are clean-shaven and probably wearing wingtip shoes. The whole ensemble screams: "I'm a Harvard man! And I love luscious, shadow-dappled thighs!"

John, you may have passed away, but the transcendent beauty of your prose lives on. Whether you were expertly pondering that hoary question the Great American Novel has set itself up to answer - "Should I have an affair with a 20-year-old woman or should I kill myself?" - or reviewing a recipe book (you would review anything, wouldn't you, you old dog?) or shaking your head in quiet bemusement at teenagers who need the internet to use something called Wikipedia (you had no idea what an internet or a Wikipedia was, but you were firm in your assertion that the Harvard card catalog had always been enough for you, thank you very much), you were staggeringly eloquent. You probably paid more attention to Pennsylvania than it ever deserved, but Pennsylvania was thankful for it. Because of you, all the license plates now feature the words "The Licentious State" printed across a pair of luscious, shadow-dappled thighs.

You were not much of a postmodernist in terms of style. But you were a postmodernist in that you happened to be writing after the year 1960, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. We at Happy Postmodernists salute you, John Updike, and your many opinions, fetishes and sweaters. If you had been a member of Vampire Weekend, well...that would have been weirdly appropriate. Godspeed.

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