Saturday, March 07, 2009

Still from New York*

(I wrote this more than a month ago; it was to be a post.)

John Updike died last Tuesday [January, 27]. On Wednesday I didn't buy the newspaper, so I only got to know it on Thursday. I'll never again find his pieces of literary criticism in The New Yorker - which I read, regardless of the book or the author he so intelligently and deferentially dealt with. Once, while I spent some months sort of isolated in a house that my parents have in the Pyrenees, I relied on the company of one of his longest and probably best books - maybe least Updikish, too: In the Beauty of the Lilies. I used to read it seated on the grass, against a tree, by the lake. And the very first short story that I ever translated into Spanish, for my own sake, because I thought it was wonderful, was one of his. One about a middle-aged man, single, bitter, at odds with life, who discovers, back in his hometown, in a visit to his old-time optician, that he's still able to fall in love as foolishly as an adolescent. I still haven't found a better title for a short story: "The persistence of desire". That might well be what keep us all alive. "His stories", wrote Lorrie Moore - who is another of my dearest short story writers - "were jewels of existential comedy, domestic anguish and restraint. And his non-fiction!".

*Updike didn't like New York. He only went there when necessary, to visit some friends, or his editor, or to see some art exhibitions.

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