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Updike at His Relaxed Best
on November 27, 2012
Arguably America's last great man of letters, the late John Updike's interests ranged from art, to literature, children's books, and occasionally to golf. With the exception of literature, in which he wrote from the perspective of a foremost practitioner, he was, as he admits himself, more of a well-informed dabbler. Therein lies the charm of this book, capturing his observations on art by collecting various pieces he wrote, primarily for the NYRB, New Republic, and for honorary lectures. They are not the observations of an "art critic" per se, but of a professed non-expert (like most of us), who was at the same time, one of the most profoundly literate, and intelligent men of his era. In short, he approached art in the way most of us do, as an amateur, yet with far greater artistic gifts and sensibilities than certainly I, and probably most people, could ever dream of. Thus, I found his observation to be so helpful to me -- like, "yes, that is exactly the same question I had, and, of course, that is exactly what I was sorta' thinking, but couldn't quite get too." In short, I enjoyed lingering on every page of this book, with its lovely reproductions of the art Updike is describing (I only wish that more of the painting/art were actually pictured), and of course, the mind of John Updike himself, who loved art, and who took time from his too short, but marvelously productive literary life to explain art to those of us who shared his passion for it, using the full range of his immense intellectual and humanistic gifts.