drinking a toast to the visible world, his impending disappearance from it be damned


Twenty years ago, John Updike published a memoir, “Self-­Consciousness,” which opens with an extended reminiscence of his hometown. The author has been stranded for the evening while his mother and daughter are at the movies, and he walks the streets of Shillington, Pa., in a light rain, reliving the past in the incantatory detail with which he informed and illuminated his fiction, summoning up the names of departed local merchants, of his teachers and elementary school classmates, recalling the material texture of his childhood right on down to the candies, magazines and coloring books offered for sale at the variety store, recording the essence of his time amongst us. “The street,” he writes, “the house where I had lived, seemed blunt, modest in scale, simple; this deceptive simplicity composed their precious, mystical secret, the conviction of whose existence I had parlayed into a career, a message to sustain a writer book after book.” That message, that testimony of an individual and recollective consciousness as it relives and reviews the matter of a lifetime and grapples with the effects of aging, disease, decline and death, is the focus of Updike’s final collection of new fiction.

more from T. Coraghessan Boyle at the NY Times here.