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January 18, 1976 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1976-01-18

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Page Four

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Sunday, January 18, 19-1

BOQ

KS

Picked
By JAMES GINDIN
PICKED UP PIECES, by
John Up dik e. Knopf, New
York. 519 pp. $12.95.
A LTHOUGH HE worked regu-
larly on the staff of The
New Yorker for only two years
in the mid-fifties, John Updike,
in this collection of his occa-
sional prose, essays, and book
reviews written over the past
ten years, represents much of
the best of that magazine,
its thoughtfulness, independence,
range, and concern with good
writing. One of his longest
pieces, an account of the Carib-
bean island of Anguilla, is in
the tradition of New Yorker
"fact pieces," combining person-
al visits and observations with a
sound reporter's research on the
history and politics of the island.
In this essay, as in his accounts
of travels to Russia and Eastern
Europe, Updike achieves a dens-
ity of fact and knowledge that

Up

Pie ces:

The

best

of

John

Updike

renders the easy governmental
or political slogan shallow. The
reviews, most of them written
for The New Yorker, show the
range of Updike's interests,
European, South American, and
African literature, psychiatry
and social issues, graphic and
pictorial art from the erotica of
the, Far East to a book reprint-
ing David Levine's caricatures
for The New York Review of
Books (before publishing any
fiction, Updike won a fellowship
to the Ruskin School of Drawing
and Fine Art at Oxford, and he
remains ┬░xtremely skillful in
describin visual compositions
and effects t As a reviewer, Up-
dike is balanced, more lauda-
tory than not, eager to discover
the particular distinctions of
well-known writers such as
Hemingway, Proust, Borges (he
was, in early 1965, one of the
first Americans to appreciate
Borges in print), Auden, Eliot,

and Robbe-Grillet (he is particu-
larly acute on the differences
between theory and practice in
Robbe-Grillet's work, on "a
forced naivete in his vision").
Updike's reviews, like many of
the longer ones in The New
Yorker, are apt to be biograph-
ical, to summarize a career
(despite the caution against this
in his preface) or draw out the
implications of a particular
"experiment." In a sense, many
of the reviews celebrate the lit-
erary life, avoid pre-established
standards to uncover what is
uniquely valuable about Joyce
or Proust or Sylvia Townsend
Warner. They are very much
New Yorker reviews, just as,
in a few peripheral pages, Up-
dike gives a richer sense of
what it was like to work at The
New, Yorker (at least in the
fifties) than does Brendan Gill's
long book of gossip and power
ploys.

j TPDIKE C A N sometimes,'
however, be astringent, as in
his blast at the slickness and
condescension of T.S. Matthews'
book on T.S. Eliot or in his
demolition of the inflated repu-
tations of Francoise . Sagan,
J a m e s Gould Cozzens, and
Jerzy Kosinski. Able to see lim-
itations even in his generally
reverent reviews of Nabokov
(ADA is called "cotton-candy
spun to the size of sunset cumu-
lus"), Updike can be gossipy
and witty about Bellow and Sal-
inger, acerbic about critics who
demand messages or patronize
writers or sound like humane
old "aunties," and is himself
superficially snide only once or
twice when talking about Nor-
man Mailer. Far more frequent-
ly, Updike can find a book that
is little known, like the late'
Erich Kahler's The Inward Turn'
of Narrative, show its distinc-
tion, its limitations as well, and
then shape it to ask questions
with understated profundity, in
this instance a speculation about
whether art, which tames the
barbarian in all of us, is a
"progressive" or a "reaction-
ary" force, "advances con-
sciousness" or "lulls and muf-
fles it."

THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC
FACULTY CHAMBER CONCERTS
EVA LIKOVA, Soprano LEONARD JOHNSON, Tenor'
RALPH HERVBERT, Baritone GUSTAVE ROSSEELS, Violin
JOHN MOHLER, Clarinet CARL DAELER, Horn'
LYNNE LYNCH, Piano NANCY HODGE, Piano
DEANNA BOYLAN (Guest), Piano
Associates: RICO McNEELA, MARIANNE TOTH, Violin
MAXWELL RAIMI, Viola; YOUNG-SOOK TUN, Cello
JAMES WILHELMSON, Piano'
TODAY, Sunday, January 18-4 p.m.

f

RACKHAM AUDITORIUM
MILHAUD, BRITTEN, AULENC, CHAUSSON
ADMISSION COMPLIMENTARY

..+

PnU
ON YOUR DOORSTEP!

I

, A S A SOCIAL commentator,
in both essays and reviews,
Updike is often intelligent and
iconoclastic about the easily
accepted. He is superb ,in a
long account of the importance
of the Grove Press and the
avant-garde, brilliantly uncon-
ventional about the social im-
plications of satire, and shrewd-
ly knowledgeable and accurate
about the lack of "complacency"
A A sbe
- 0
thr*
TKE UNIVRSITY OfMICMIGAip
PROFESSIONAL IHEATRE PROGRAM
THIS, AN ACTOR'S TRUNK
has gone in and out of 92 cities across
the U.S. Now, it returns to Ann Arbor!

'in the young during the fifties. remains the writer, the person
He also, against the grain of his who transmits and discovers
generation, b e g a n reviewing experience through language,
theological books about 1960, who resists talking.of fiction in
and has included long, search- terms of messages or slogans,
ing, thorough psycho-biographi- and who defends other writers
cal and critical accounts of as "members of a conspiracy
Kierkegaard, Tillich, Dostoyevs-i to preserve the secret that peo-
sky, and others. The Kierke- ple feel." Occasionally, Updike's
gaard review tries to show how imagery can elaborate sense-
the Danish thinker, "holding lessly ("he spelunked past slip-
out for existential d u a lit y pery stalagmites of compacted
against the tide of all mon- Common Books into unthinkable
isms," made Christianity "in- caves of ancient correspond-
tellectually possible" for 20th ence") or d e g e n e r a t e into
century man. Updike, too, writes whimsy (and Updike admits it),
well about his own roots in the but, far more often, the imagery
farm country of eastern Penn- expands, discovers, and cele-
sylvania (details and an attitude brates. Often, Updike's - prose
most visible in The Centaur, combines the incisive and the
still his favorite among his reverent, the sharp mind used
novels, and in his more recent to appreciate and to love what
play, "Buchanan Dying"). The had not 'been seen before. In
combination of i n t e r e s t ims e v e r a l different ways, he
"roots," in religion, and social makes the point. that "the bour-
iconoclasm has led to others: geois novel is inherently erotic,"
characterizing Updike as a Con- both in its social dimension and
servative. I, like Updike, am in its concentration on the issue
not altogether sure what a Con- of pprevral salvation. He talks
servative is, but there is a note of s- " s the emergent reli-
of ethnicity in his work, of 1968- gion," oth "the only thing
71, visible in Couples and par- left" and the communication to
ticularly in the excessively sim- I be treated reverently because
plified alter-ego personna of all of the individual is involved.
Henry Bech (Bech: A Book, and The prose often expands to this
a few later defenses), a kind of point of intersection, the point
only half humorous willingness at which love, religion, and the
to reside within the standard individual meet; no wonder it is
stereotypes of ethnic identity, vulnerable, sometimes exces-
which I find limiting anoi unat- sive, sometimes flat. Updike's
tractive. Perhaps coincidentally, acute images often combine un-
the few pieces that I think lack expected categories or seeming-
Updike's usual insight were ly inappropriate language in
written during the same period: idea or in scale to achieve a
a rather stale essay on living startling force: some of the
in London for nine months in "comic-book" attitudes in con-
1969 that seems to owe as much temporary politics are sure that
to Hollywood's idea of the Eng- "Che and Mao will deliver us
lish in the thirties as to any from toilet training:" Ivy Comp-
observation; a reductive and ton-Burnett has won her "iron
imperceptive parody of an Iris niche - in English literature;"
Murdoch novel; a rather labor- Dostoyevsky, in the self-promot-
ed and pretentious fantasy of a ing diary of one -of his mis-
golf match on the moon. Updike tresses, is the "repulsive, re-
is not at his best with what he pelled lover, whose immortal
does not know densely, the Eng- genius is never for an instant
h jpermitted to wink through the
lash, just as I, as reader, am vapors of her narcissism." Up-
not at my most appreciative dike's skill in turning Imagery
with what I don't know at all; sometimes reveals illuminating
(both golf and the moon). literary criticism: Nabokov's
American novels are regarded f..
INEVITABLY, any reader will as his best, containing "a fierc-
reject some of the attitudes er frivolity and a cruelty more
and opinions within a book as humane" than does the fiction
vast and varied as this. Yet, written in Europe, and his best
work is "inspired by. an athe-
consistently throughout, Updike ist's faith in the magic of simile
and the sacredness of lost
time;" Hemingway's later fic-
tion, with its postures of brav-
O rd erIery, "is not grace under pres-
sure but pressure forced in the
I -'hope of inducing Grace," al-
4 i r though, for Updike, the result-

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John Updike
Niven's latest:

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{
3
I
E

The Act in

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ing reader's, "pity feeling im-
pudent" allows one to love
Hemingway still. Often, Up-
dike's prose expands in sheer
delight with words. Always, he
is the writer, the creator, the
person who celebrates what is,
and, at his best, finds additional
dimensions of experience in his
celebration. 3
James Gindin is a professor in
the English Department.

1,
E
i

rum. aw.

WILL BE AT CENTICORE
MONDAY, JAN. 19G1-3 P.M.
AUORAHPAT

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JANUARY 6-31
UNION GALLERY
WEEKD4YS 10-6
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MCHIGAN UNON,
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They shoot empy
horses dcn't they?
By RANDI HACKER apparently referring to the ex-
otic world of Hollywood. Stein
HRI O THE EM Y replied, "There is no there out
HORSES by David Niven. G.P. there." At this point Niven goes
Putnam's Sons, New York, directly into his own philoso-
374 pp. $ ohies about Hollywood including
T IS UNFORTUNATE that s-ich gems as the hummingbirds
that fame deludes prominent ". . . whizzing about with their
people into believing they ca tiny waist coats of turquoise,
write. David Niven, for example vermililon and gold flashing in
has written yet another book the sunlight," and little stabs at
about the wonderful, madcap, equality l i k e "oneupwoman-
oh-so-romantic days of Holly- 'ship."But what he fails to point
wood-the time of big powerful 'tot is the meaning or intepre-
movie moguls and big popular tation of Stein's response.
movie stars: Niven begins hisbook by say-
;Niven's Bring On the EmptyE ing "this is not a book about
Horses is mostly a series of David Niven . . . but if, despite
questionably funny anecdotes 'valiant efforts to remain in the
and quotes once mouthed by wings I have, on occasion,
Hollywood notables. Niven never eased myself forward, I apolo-
succeeds in connectng them to gize." The reader can only be
anything at all. The importance consoled by this apology, for
of the book seems to lie in the w i t h remarkable frequency
number of names dropped on iien "eases" himself into the
any given page. For example, ? book. Niven makes certain that
the first chapter begins with a all the quaint and amusing re-
little s t o r y about Gertrude marks are obviously first hand
Stein's answer to the question knowledge.
)"What is it like-out there?"- A NOTTRRh t Adnb Pn-L

71

ELSA ts.
The College of LSA does not provide for adeqaute student participa-
tion in college decision-making. That is why the LSA Student Govern-
ment is continually working for meaningful student representation on
College committees. It also meanh that those student seats that do
exist on College committees are even more critical to students.
The LSA Student Government is now interviewing for
openings on the following committees:

iN ri Kcnapier aeais en-
*t 1 tirely with Clark Gable's
- anod fortune in meeting David
Niven, who then was just an
extra with an impeccable and
enchanting English accent. And
are vou aware that without
David Niven, Gable would have
never made it through all his
crises? All of Hollywood, he
hints, was seeking Niven's ad-
vi-e.
C1-e'~nter Three - "Our Little
(~rl"--is purely an unsuccess-
F allegorv. This is the inevit-
ahle morality section containing
a deen message for those who
have fantasies about the glit-
t-ring life of a movie star. Here
Ni-en relates a heart-rending
*-le of a not-so-young starlet on
the downhill road of drugs, fil
t~rad le-s close tn shots and a
'hnd, symbolically referred
to as "'im." who is. of course,
I in--ithf'il. It fails as an ale-
nr~r, brit does st fine as an
n-W1-e for an Jaqueline Susanne

I

COLLEGE CURRICULUM COMMITTEE

I

LSA ADMINISTRATIVE BOARD

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