January 28, 2009
Irving on Updike, DFW on Updike
The letters would begin "Dear John Irving," and I would read for a while before I realized that the letter-writer was talking about an Updike novel; it was the same for him. I admit that I miss this craziness; it will probably never happen again.
I wonder what it was about a misguided fan letter that tipped John Irving off that it was a letter intended for John Updike. Maybe something like:
I'm a big fan, I've read all your novels and stories and essays. You write exceptionally beautiful and vivid prose about truly unlikeable men, who usually sound like they would be self-involved jerks who can't keep it in their pants if you knew them in real life. But your use of language sure is nice!
Avid Reader Who Isn't So Hot With Names
Anyway, Irving includes a few other amusing stories. This little essay is probably the most uniformly positive thing I've ever seen written about John Updike.
A less positive reaction came from David Foster Wallace. Here's his essay titled "John Updike, Champion Literary Phallocrat, Drops One; Is This Finally the End for Magnificent Narcissists?", originally published in the New York Observer in 1997, also appearing in Consider the Lobster with the I'm assuming deliberately opaque title, "Certainly the End of Something or Other, One Would Sort of Have to Think."
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