Literary Wannabe Puts Kibosh

I’m reading a first edition Updike I picked up for a buck a few months ago from a used-book sale.  The Coup is a delightfully typical Updike, lush and substantial like a thick, perfectly marbled prime-rib: juicy, rich, tasty, a pleasure to savor.  Most of the action of this Cold-War era story takes place in an impoverished, drought-stricken African nation whose president is both the leader of the Islamic/Marxist revolution that overthrew the monarchy, and the narrator.   I enjoy rich word-use, vivid descriptions and clever juxapositions which is why I liked the book.  Like other Updike, it illustrated the foibles, contradictions, and maybe even dangers of 1950s and 60s middle American society’s wealth, prejudices and suppressed sexuality.

One of my favorite scenes is the (black African) narrator’s  reminiscence of dinner at his (white, American) girlfriend’s family’s house.  The narrator has already described the white overstuffed furniture set in the perfectly arranged suburban livingroom.  Now, this second look hits home.

In the rebellious act of standing I changed perspective on the room, and was freshly overwhelmed by its exotisme, its fantasy, the false flowers and fires, the melting-iceberg shapes of its furniture, its whiteness and coldness and magnificent sterility; the emptiness, in short, of its lavish fullness…

Empty lavish fullness:  words that express reality like that are sweet and satisfying candy.  I savor them while they melt in my mouth, my mind, my heart.

A quote toward the end of the book struck me as something I wouldn’t mind my family reading after my death.

What we most miss of those that slip from us, is their wit, the wit that attends those who knew us- lovers, grandmothers, children.  The sparks in their eyes are kindled just once by our passing.

Keen of Updike to recognize the thing that means the most from those near us: the knowing of us, even if only in the recognition of who we are and what we’re about.

Books like this by authors like Updike used to make me despair of ever publishing anything, of ever writing anything anyone would want to read for free let alone buy it.  With the Life Literary, I put the kibosh on that.

About literarylee

I sling words for a living. Always have, always will. Some have been interesting and fun; most not. These days, I write the fun words early in the morning before the adults are up and make me eat my Cream of Wheat.
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