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What’s the point of Updike?

Lacking the weight of Bellow or Roth, John Updike nevertheless captures the point of the mundane. In his new collection of stories, surface is depth

By Jane O'Grady   May 2001

“What do you write?…” asks a hitch-hiking sailor in one of John Updike’s 1960s short stories. “Oh-whatever comes into my head,” answers David Kern (an Updike alter ego). As Updike records in his memoirs, critics of his early books complained that he “wrote all too well but had nothing to say,” or compared him to a quick child delineating with dazzling brilliance the surface of the adult world. Sometimes, in comparison with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, the other writers in the great American triumvirate, he can seem morally lightweight. In Rabbit Remembered (a novella in this collection of short…

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