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A masterful failure

John Updike has tried and largely failed to convey the interior life of an Arab-American terrorist. Still, it is always a pleasure to watch a master at work

By Erik Tarloff   September 2006

Terrorist by John Updike (Hamish Hamilton, £17.99)

John Updike is a master, and even in his less successful novels, the things he can do well, he does superbly.

Terrorist is one of those less successful novels. Like The Coup and Brazil, it represents one of Updike’s periodic forays into exotic territory, a departure from his usual repertory company of east coast middle-class strivers, academics and clerics and business people struggling to get ahead, to contend with their unruly and inconvenient appetites, and to make sense of the gaudy chaos of contemporary American society. This time, his exotic isn’t situated in…

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