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Updike: “Bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory.”

Updike: “Bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory.”
June 21, 2010 Jennifer Boylan

Today’s NYT carries a fascinating advance look at the soon-to-be available Updike papers at Harvard. The link is here. The author of the article is Sam Tanenhaus.

I was especially moved by these words:

“We do not need men like Proust and Joyce; men like this are a luxury, an added fillip that an abundant culture can produce only after the more basic literary need has been filled,” Updike wrote to his parents in 1951, when he was 19. “This age needs rather men like Shakespeare, or Milton, or Pope; men who are filled with the strength of their cultures and do not transcend the limits of their age, but, working within the times, bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory. We need great artists who are willing to accept restrictions, and who love their environments with such vitality that they can produce an epic out of the Protestant ethic” — a prescient formulation of what he would later achieve in the Rabbit novels and his Pennsylvania short stories. “Whatever the many failings of my work,” he concluded, “let it stand as a manifesto of my love for the time in which I was born.”


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