Sunday, September 28, 2003

Updike Must Die

For over half a century, John Updike has been producing writing that's perhaps best described as the literary equivalent of masturbating into a silk handkerchief (required reading: David Foster Wallace's elegant takedown in the NY Observer). But is he satisfied? Does he have the decency to fade quietly now that his irrelevance has ripened to its full fruition? No. He must continue to offend by publishing a truly awful poem in this Sunday's New York Times Book Review; first stanza:

O brown star burning in the east,
elliptic orbits bring you close;
as close as this no eye has seen
since sixty thousand years ago

Gaaaaaaaah. In the past, Updike at least had the virtue of a good ear, but this takes my breath away. I knew people in high school who wrote better poetry than this. The clichéd portentousness of the astronomical trope, the lifeless doggerel of the latter three lines' iambic meter, the utterly flat, failed quasi-lyricism --- how does he get away with it? Somebody please kill me. Or him, rather.

Or, at least, given that the Sunday Book Review is one of the very few popular national forums that publishes poetry, please give any of the nation's legion of talented young poets a day in the sun, instead of stroking the trivial ego of this trivial, trivial man.

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