Self-Consciousness: Memoirs by John Updike

By John Updike

One in all our best novelists now provides us his such a lot outstanding construction -- his personal existence. In six eloquent and compelling chapters, the writer of The Witches of Eastwick and the glorious Rabbit trilogy supplies us an incitingly sincere examine the makings of an American author -- and of an American man.

Here is Updike on his youth, on illnesses either terrible (psoriasis) and hilarious (his reviews by the hands of a dentist), on his stuttering, on his emotions throughout the Vietnam conflict, on his family tree. and on that the majority elusive of matters, his innermost self. What emerges is an interesting, totally shaped portrait -- candid, frequently very, humorous, and continuously illuminating.

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Immediately the impresarios and agents come forward, the worldwide rights to the show are sold, people rush off to the telephones, and in the space of an hour the fate of the show for the foreseeable future has been decided, with an instant turnover of millions. The Jews Seventy-five percent of the publishing world here is Jewish. Ninety percent of the theatre is Jewish. The ready-to-wear clothes industry, New York’s major industry, is almost exclusively Jewish. Banks, however, are completely closed to Jews, as are the universities.

But being with her is difficult for me since her extreme irritability transmits a certain uneasiness (though I’ve noticed that as you speak to her this gradually diminishes), and it is not very useful because I can’t get anything out of her either as regards publishing (her qualities are neither literary nor editorial), nor socially (being a pessimist and a misanthrope, she stays very much inside her shell). She represents the other side of America, the negative, painful one. And as such, she too will be an inevitable point of reference for me, precisely because she is the one American woman I have met so far with whom you cannot instantly establish a naturally cordial relationship.

I thought that a possible solution was to persuade him to move on to something else, to concentrate on another of the many projects he had in mind. ’ he replied, ‘Because that’s my biography, and my biography is not yet . ’ He did not finish the sentence. Was he about to say ‘is not yet finished’? Or maybe he was thinking, ‘That book is not all of my autobiography’? Years later I came across a folder entitled Autobiographical Pieces containing a series of texts with notes already written by him about their first publication.

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