Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike passes away

From the New York Times obit:

John Updike, the kaleidoscopically gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit Angstrom novels highlighted so vast and protean a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism as to place him in the first rank of among American men of letters, died on Tuesday. He was 76 and lived in Beverly Farms, Mass.

From the Atlantic Monthly, part of one of his poems entitled Madurai:
From our terrace at the Taj Garden Retreat,
the city below belies its snarl of commerce—
men pushing postcards on the teeming street,
and doe-eyed children begging with their words
so soft the language can’t be understood
even were we to try and were not fleeing
the nudge of stirred pity. Can life be good,
awakening us to hunger? What point has being?


Anonymous said...

Oh dear. He was phenomenal. Thanks for letting us know, Sujatha. Missed this in the news.

Sujatha said...

The second part of the poem is puzzling:
"Vishnu, sleeping, hatched the cosmic lotus
from his navel. The god-filled polychrome
great temple towers—glaring, mountainous—
assume from here a distant ghostly tone,
smoke shadows in the sleeping cityscape
that dreams a universe devoid of shape. "

Vishnu? Madurai? Methinks he had his deities or possibly cities (Thiruvananthapuram?) mixed up.

Never mind, Updike is beyond caring about such trifling details now. RIP.

Sujatha Bagal said...

OJ, have a favorite?

Sujatha, my thinking was that he was writing about all the things he could see from his hotel room and it might have been a poster or something of Vishu that he saw.