updike’s ear


What I prized most about Updike, though, was his marvellous ear for a sentence. In the stories especially, he caught the shimmer of light on the grass, for example, with uncanny skill. He could describe a twitching face, a wrinkled elderly hand, a fond gesture of affection, with shocking ease. I doubt I shall ever forget the painful stories about a family coming apart in Problems (1979); ‘Separating’ is one story I’ve read again and again through the years, with increasing admiration. My guess is that he will long be remembered as a master of the short story, the American equivalent of Maupassant. He will also be considered as a faithful reporter of his era, one of those writers who live fixedly in their own time, paying a kind of rueful but affectionate attention to its idiosyncrasies, its foibles, and its passing glories.

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