John Updike, Chauvinist

Emily Nussbaum doesn’t feel especially compelled to be reverent toward John Updike in her interview with him for New York magazine, which is a nice and unusual thing. Like a lot of critics, she’s not impressed with his sequel to The Witches of Eastwick, the new The Widows of Eastwick, and the interview centers on some of his own personal flaws, from aging to divorce to his perception of women. Part of the fun is that Updike is game for all this, and Nussbaum that gets her jabs in subtly. I tend to get impatient with irrelevant descriptions of somebody’s looks (“she said, tugging the sleeves of her robin’s-egg-blue cashmere sweater”; “he said, removing his horn-rimmed glasses, pondering them owlishly, then putting them back on”). But this bit, where he recalls writing Witches, works beautifully:

“The era in which I wrote it was full of feminism and talk about how women should be in charge of the world,” recalls Updike, waggling the antennae of his eyebrows. “There would be no war. There would be nothing unpleasant, in fact, if women were in charge of the world. So I tried to write this book about women who, in achieving freedom of a sort, acquired power, the power that witches would have if there were witches. And they use it to kill another witch. So they behave no better with their power than men do. That was my chauvinistic thought.”

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Housekeeping Note: This blog’s traffic data tell me that a substantial proportion of readers are in the D.C. area, so I’ve gone ahead and added a page of upcoming D.C. author readings and appearances, which at the moment lists events through next spring. This is all hand-built, so there are likely a few things wrong or missing; if you have any suggestions, updates, or corrections, please drop me a line.

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